Rambert Dance Company

February 27, 1998

Rambert Dance Company

Zellerbach Hall
Berkeley, California

February 27?28, 1998

Reviewed by Janice Ross

The British command of narrative in dance was given a dazzling exhibition in Rambert Dance Company’s visit to Berkeley under the auspices of Cal Performances (Zellerbach Hall, February 27-28, 1998). Tight, aphoristic, witty, and wry, the company married rapid-fire social commentary with solid dance technique and toughly individual stage personalities in director Christopher Bruce’s Swansong.

The curious intimacy of male brutality is the subtext of this chilling portait of a sadistic interrogation. Simon Cooper and Steven Brett’s syncopated soft-shoe steps and aggressive partnering become movement metaphors for their torture of Conor O’Brien’s prisoner, who sits isolated and quivering in a chair. O’Brien holds onto his humanity throughout the beatings, breaking away for two brief solos of images of flight that crumple to the ground. In the dance’s final moments O’Brien slips from the chair where he has sat dying and exits in a slow, floating walk of ascension toward a bright offstage light. As his two torturers stare impassively at the now-empty chair, his dancing body and spirit soar toward a final, peaceful escape. The physical economy and intellectual density of Rambert’s model should prove bracing for this dance community, which is often higher on issues than effective and dramatically resonant means of communication.