Entering the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, one immediately feels the excitement brought by the visit of the London-based Rambert Dance Company, and among the big and diverse crowd the atmosphere is welcoming. The works in the triple bill were dramatically very different: Frames was a sculptural piece with a live installation feel to it, Transfigured Nights was a poetic number guided by emotions of love, and Rooster was a rock-n-roll, playful performance that closed the show. Rambert offered its audience a spectacular show as it displayed its range of abilities and artistry.

Brenda Lee Grech and Dane Hurst in <i>Frames</i> © Tristram Kenton
Brenda Lee Grech and Dane Hurst in Frames
© Tristram Kenton

Alexander Whitley's eerie Frames included live music by seven musicians. The opening solo was dramatic, with strong movement and athletic jumps, and Dane Hurst’s opening dance with the metallic rod, forcing one to see it as a dance partner rather than an object, was near perfection. The piece slowly and organically built up to a cast of twelve dancers who also partnered with multiple rods, manipulating them into various geometrical shapes. The clever choreography which included robotic motions and connecting and disconnecting of the poles created the feeling of a set being built, demolished and rebuilt. The geometry of the poles with the symmetry of the stage framed the dancers brilliantly. The company was superb in this very intelligent piece and definitely set the bar for the evening.

The world première of Transfigured Night, choreographed by Kim Brandstrup, was set to Arnold Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht, performed live, and was inspired by Richard Dehmel’s poetry. The various lifts were elegantly executed but it was not the big movements that made this romantic piece breathtaking; rather, it was the coupling of the big leaps paired with the sweet caresses and gentle gestures that display the interpretative skills of the dancers. The erect handstands, swift turns and long lunges glide the dancers across the stage creating three different scenes. Each scene depicts a different ending to a love story of actors struck by unfaithfulness: the first has an underlying tension filled with feelings of rejection and fear, the second, a bit more naive, is guided by movements that allude to forgiveness and the third is a mixture of both ends of the spectrum, the lovers moving on but wounded. 

Miguel Altunaga in <i>Rooster</i> © Tristram Kenton
Miguel Altunaga in Rooster
© Tristram Kenton
Rooster is an electrifying piece danced to recorded songs by the Rolling Stones – a fitting choice to close the evening with. Christopher Bruce's choreography celebrates the 1960s and 1970s and focuses on the relationship between the young women and the chauvinistic young men of the era. A battle of the sexes is played out through the choreography which included head movements that a cockerel would make. The velvety red and black costumes and suggestive boa scarves were used creatively in the sensual duets. The swaying of the hips as the dancers moved from the right to the left and the positioning of the palms, whether framing the face or the torso, were carried out with almost mathematical precision. Rooster was a fun work that had the Birmingham audience dancing in their seats grooving to the rock-n-roll soundtrack.

Rambert remains one of the leading dance companies in the UK, with a majority of its dancers being born and bred here. It is no surprise that the company is able to fill theatres. The dancers are versatile and agile and the repertoire fresh and unique. Theatres like the Birmingham Repertoire Theatre frame the company perfectly.