Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

three stars

Benoit Swan Pouffer’s first touring programme as Rambert’s new artistic director is like a marathon challenge to his dancers. They triumph. Regardless of whether the works in this mixed bill enthuse you, the sheer stamina and finesse that consistently fill the stage make Pouffer’s choice of something old, something new, and something borrowed, into a veritable showcase for Rambert’s current crop of talents.

The ‘old’ element here is a revival of Wayne McGregor’s PreSentient, created for Rambert in 2002 before any of these dancers had joined the company – they inhabit the piece as if it had been freshly made on them.

Steve Reich’s Triple Quartet, played live by a small (and zesty) string orchestra provides the driving force behind McGregor’s collage of sharp angularities, sudden dislocations, spins and leaps within a projected framework of lines that threaten to connect - but only click into a grid in the final seconds!

There is graphic clarity to the movement, a pulsing energy, that opens the programme on a buoyant promissory note – and to a degree, that pace and intensity does carry through, with Rouge, the new work by French choreographer Marion Motin, and In Your Rooms (2007), borrowed in from Hofesh Shechter, both stamped with an unrelenting physicality that’s underscored by a drumming, ear-pummeling score.

Motin’s Rouge begins with bodies rising out of graveyard mist, summoned by the echo-ey whanging chords played live on-stage by electric guitarist Rubén Martinez – shades of gothic-horror movies or music videos, the latter being part of Motin’s back catalogue. Strip lighting creates a ‘red zone’.

Presto! elaborate glad rags are discarded and the seven dancers cut loose into strutting hot stuff full of individual style. They can do crisp unison too, when given the green light. Odd? somewhat, yes. But an intriguing direction for Rambert before the rigours of In Your Rooms where Shechter’s tropes of social regimentation and defiantly personal identity demand total and unswerving commitment from dancers and audience alike.