French hip-hop choreographer Marion Motin is best known for making videos for Christine and the Queens and Dua Lipa, and has now created her first work for a contemporary company. It’s a statement of intent from Rambert’s new artistic director, Benoit Swan Pouffer. Rambert might be Britain’s oldest dance company but they’re downing the elixir of youth.
Motin is moving away from commercial dance here, but the best bits of her piece Rouge are the ones that look as if they could be in a music video: pounding repetitive motion in tight unison, bodies jacking hard against a four-to-the-floor beat with full-on strobes and a wall of sound (Micka Luna’s guitar-heavy score). The run-up to this pure adrenaline kick is less exciting. In an unfocused first half, not much happens for a long time. Seven people are stranded in the middle of the night, dressed as if they’ve rampaged through a vintage shop (feather boa, fur coat, pearls). Once costumes have been shed, each dancer retains their individual character, their own posture and attack, so even when they come to dance the same steps the result can be fey, funky, muscular or, in the notable case of dancer Daniel Davidson, waspishly articulate. Rouge is a rush, but also a flawed piece; it almost feels as if it needs a lead singer as a central focus.
Hofesh Shechter’s In Your Rooms is another programming statement from Pouffer. Mounting an early work from a now big-name choreographer, he is cherry-picking from other companies to define a canon of modern classics. In Your Rooms is similarly apocalyptic in mood – and loud in volume – to Rouge, but compared with Motin, Shechter’s 2007 piece displays a much more ambitious and complete vision, although in hindsight, it could benefit from an edit.
Wayne McGregor’s PreSentient was made for Rambert in 2002. In the years since, McGregor’s once-startling dislocations and socket-swivelling extensions have become the norm. This piece is less complex than his later works, but it still gives the dancers plenty to get their limbs around. The company absorb themselves into each piece, ready, no doubt, for what Pouffer will throw at them next.