Rambert: Hydrargyrum. Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London. 07/11/2016

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It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, and I will try and be more proactive, although often think I am talking to myself… To be honest, when I get out of a call, there’s the processing, edit, filing for press (a bit like writing to Santa Claus, given how many newspapers actually show any interest in the arts), make some comments on Facebook and Twitter, then it’s time to open a bottle. But occasionally something happens that is out of he norm, and so here I am today, some time after the aforesaid.

On Monday we had a Rambert call at Sadler’s Wells, for Patricia Okenwa’s Hydrargyrum. I have photographed Patricia’s work before, when she was a dancer with the company, as Rambert has a long laudable tradition of encouraging company members to choreograph and hosts performances, albeit usually in smaller venues. She was a dancer with the company from 2004-2016, and this is her first work that is going into the company rep.

The production values are high, with a huge mirror hanging across the width of centre stage, and about three three fifths of the area. When the house goes down and the lights go up on stage, it isn’t by very much. Very little light, and dancers in what amounts to black full-length hoodies. For photographers not a moment of joy. We then realise that the mirror can tip. As well as an alternative view of the dancers, we can see the only performers that are really illuminated: the orchestra! Hence the pic shown here. This is a nice trick that is often played with video on stage, but somehow has more credibility used in this way.

Vanessa Kang slowly removes the costume, and reveals flesh coloured under-clothes. During this time the lighting has increased, and glows. Still tough (for the techies: D810, 70-200mm mostly at f2.8/4, around 160th., and between 3200-6400 iso). The work becomes more dynamic and relationships evolve.

One of the really interesting things about Rambert, largely to the credit of Artistic Director Mark Baldwin, is that the company members stay with the company. They are technically extraordinary, and work well collaboratively. Patricia has worked closely with these dancers for many years, and this shows as the dancers have trust and confidence in her. The work has clearly evolved collectively, with individuals clearly knowing what they want to and can do. Consequently they take great chances both individually and collectively. When photographing one cannot really fully ‘see’ what is happening across the space, so it was only when editing (on the packed train home – joy!) that I could see what was going on.

An awful lot of stuff went in the bin, and I can’t claim that these pics are technical masterpieces, but they did leave me wishing I could have seen the piece from an audience perspective. And I do believe that some really do capture the essense of dance.

Full collection here:



AUTHOR - Tony Nandi

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