As Rambert Dance Company settles in to its new home on London’s Southbank it opened its doors to the public for a taste of what they do.
First up was a performance of The Rite of Spring by the students of the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. It’s incredible how some great choreography, well thought-out lighting, and talented dancers can completely entrance you. I thoroughly enjoyed his somewhat unsettling, ritualistic piece that showcased some dancers who will clearly be ones to watch in the coming years.
Next up was a panel discussion with Mark Baldwin (Rambert’s Artistic Director), Amanda Britton (Rambert School), Sara Matthews (Central School of Ballet), Mikaela Polley (Rambert), Janet Smith (Northern School of Contemporary Dance), and Jessica Ward (Elmhurst School) looking at preparing the next generation of dancers for the professional world of dance. Starting with a discussion of what companies and schools look for, and then on to the types of training the schools provide it’s clear that a lot is expected of the dancers, but that every member of the panel was genuinely passionate about helping talented dancers develop, and preparing them for careers to span beyond the short time they’ll be at their physical peak. What became apparent is that the dance world has changed, that it’s no longer a case of training, joining a company, and retraining at the end of that part of the dancer’s career for the next stage. The emphasis seems very much on exploring the dancers’ interests, developing relationships with choreographers, and understanding all the different roles that go in to producing dance shows. This enables them to create opportunities for themselves and develop their careers in a way that is right for them. There was also a discussion of what can be learned from the way sport psychology has been used to increase performance, and how dance psychology can be used to similar effect.
I was also lucky enough to sit in on a company class and rehearsal. Having only ever watched and taken part in classical ballet classes it was interesting to see something a bit different, and even in class the individual styles of the dancers were apparent. During the rehearsal it was interesting to see the dancers working together to try and get to grips with the timing of a piece. In every session I left with a real sense of how much they love what they do, and the importance of collaboration and teamwork.
The final event of the week was the highlight for me. Unpacking choreography with Mark Baldwin was a chance to see choreography in action, and what a privilege it was. He spoke to the audience at the beginning and end about his choreographic techniques, where inspiration comes from, and the importance of collaboration. He had seven dancers with him who he got to choreograph short solos based on a snippet of music and movements that he demonstrated. The results were quite remarkable, and he showed how much difference positioning and tempo can make, as well as combining solos to make a group piece. It became clear what a delicate art choreography is, and how important it is to work with the dancers and musicians until you get something that feels right.