REVIEW – Awakenings Tour 2011, Edinburgh Festival Theatre

*****

Until 18th February 2011, 19:30 (22:00) @ Edinburgh Festival Theatre

 

By Danielle Farrow

The Rambert Company has a fine reputation in the dance world and the Awakenings Tour shows why. In this collection of three pieces, dancers show strong technique, precision, flow, controlled acrobatics and a sense of fun, moving to wide-ranging music which is apt, absorbing, creates intriguing worlds and also entertains. All of this is staged with a great feel for atmosphere and shape.
 
The first piece is ‘Awakenings’ itself, a Scottish premiere, based on a medical condition in which people become “living statues” where music can then stimulate movement. Dr Oliver Sacks describes these patients: “Without music they rarely moved, and what movements they made were either slowed and obstructed or speeded-up and explosive. Only music could give them a stable tempo.” ‘Awakenings’ plays on such movement, a particular highlight being a fast, staccato, suited character, sometimes a bit like an early computer game cursor, with obstructions caused by the others. The changing rhythms – including a particularly moving pas de deux – fascinate, though occasional flowing pieces lose their grip on the attention and a couple of the dancers do not exhibit the precision of the others that really makes this piece. Aletta Collins’ choreography is deepened by lighting that highlights the polished floor, creating watery reflections (Design: Miriam Buether; Lighting Design: Yaron Abulafia) and by Tobias Picker’s music, which makes both intriguing and disturbing use of timpani and percussion within a full orchestral sound.
 
‘Monolith’ is the central piece and a truly engrossing heart to the programme. The music, atmosphere and beauty of the choreography flows over and through the audience, proving this world premiere the strongest part of the evening. Its non-sexual sensuality fills the space, the low-lighting with a desert feel and pared-down music creating a simplicity that seems to speak directly to the soul. Dancers move extremely well with very close bodywork, a lot of pairings, and great support in lifts and intricate movements that create exotic yet grounded four- and six-limbed beings. There is a sense of timeless achievement to this piece which well reflects the inspiration for it: “places of greatness and the people who formed them with their presence, beliefs and mysteries” – Tim Rushton, choreographer, who also worked on Design with Charlotte Østergaard and Lighting Design with Malcolm Glanville. Music is by Pēteris Vasks.
 
The final piece is another Scottish premiere, ‘Cardoon Club’: a witty, ‘60s/‘70s jazz / funk nightclub inhabited by striking, posing creatures, full of attitude – often preening in bird manner, and then stalking in feline fashion. Stories ebb and flow in relationships, a fun ‘stick sequence’ uses puppetry techniques, and the company’s synchronised movement is at its strongest here. Silver beaded curtains form a distinct part of the staging (Design: Michael Howells) and are utilised in Henrietta Horn’s choreography, and there is also a strong sense of time and place in the Lighting Design by Reinhard Hubert. Benjamin Pope’s music is fun and engaging, making use of the period Hammond organ sound, and includes the creation of a carnival feel. As a minor niggle, both music and choreography have a number of ‘false endings’, making the piece seem a little longer than wished and leaving the final finish somewhat weak by comparison. Still, ‘Cardoon Club’ is colourful and entertaining.
 
Rambert’s Awakenings Tour is an intriguing mix of music and influences which can stimulate and entertain everyone, as the cross-generational audience showed. Both Awakenings and Cardoon Club are strong pieces, displaying fine control and dance skills alongside entertaining wit, while Monolith – greeted by cheers and some standing for the ovation – provides a rich and rewarding core that makes the show worth seeing even for this piece alone.

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