A maze of interlocked, midair cables is negotiated onstage with sheer virtuosity and gravitational defiance. A woman births a teenager, who becomes a tyrant. A couple trapped in an industrial unit tease each other into a frenzy with lurid and liquid gyrations. Fire and smoke are everywhere, and people are literally climbing the walls. Get ready for all this—and then some—when Rambert finally premieres, onstage and in person, the unapologetically visceral and occasionally jocular Draw from Within.
Choreographed by the polymath Belgian Wim Vandekeybus, the piece was live-streamed last September to bumper digital ovations. Clever camerawork enmeshed viewers and dancers—deep zooms closing in on sinews pulsing; multi-angled panning shots catching all 19 bodies going at it with abandon.
During the pandemic, Rambert was one of many companies that bent the needs of dance to fit the screen. But it was one of the few that did it with élan. Instead of the flat, archival dance film oft trotted out, Rambert’s livestream was both a feat of fearless choreography and a master class in filmic dexterity, with cameras and dancers working in concert as artistic equals—a prodigious achievement when choreographing in 2D.
From its birth in 1926, as a classical-ballet troupe, to its rebirth in the 1980s, as a conduit for the crème of postmodern American choreography (think Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, Trisha Brown), to its present perch on the bleeding edge of contemporary dance, Rambert has never been afraid to flip the art form on its head.
“The work is pure defiance,” Rambert’s artistic director, Benoit Swan Pouffer, says of Draw from Within, “a symbol of the renaissance of the company.” It’s an allegory of life’s unrelenting cycles—paging Pina Bausch!—so expect dramaturgic depth, electric phrasing, and gymnastic partnering by the impeccably trained young Rambertians.
To watch Draw from Within is to plummet down a rabbit hole and arrive in Disturbia. It may not be all swans and sylphs, but one suspects it could endure as exalted repertory. In the words of Pouffer, “It reflects our time. Which is what we are as a company—simply a mirror.” So strap yourselves in and head to Sadler’s Wells, in London, where the show premieres on June 2. —Genevieve Curtis