Review: Eye Candy/Rouge by Rambert. Live performance, streamed until 17 July 2021. Book here.
[Disclosure: Rambert provided me with a ticket to this show for the purposes of this review.]
Contemporary dance troupe, Rambert, premiered its summer, live stream show last night. After the extraordinary success of Rambert’s first live stream show, Rooms, in April, I’m thrilled that Rambert is bringing more new and exciting work to audiences across the world.
The show is made up of two pieces, Eye Candy and Rouge. Eye Candy, choreographed, and with set and costume design, by siblings Imre van Opstal and Marne van Opstal is one of the most exciting, disturbing and ground-breaking pieces of contemporary dance that you’ll see – it is glorious, unsettling, extraordinary.
Eye Candy explores in detail what it means to be human; an exploration that couldn’t be more relevant to us today. Imre and Marne have designed the most exceptional costumes – made up of skin-coloured pieces of anatomically accurate torso over flesh-coloured leotards. Each dancer is given pieces that almost, but not quite, match their own skin tones. The effect is disconcerting – rendering each dancer as an undressed mannequin.
The piece is made up of a series of duets smoothly interspersed with ensemble pieces. Each duet sets a theme or tone – which the troupe then delves into in the following ensemble piece. It’s all there – beauty, disability, compassion, brutality, sexuality, gender, gentleness, violence, love and lust. The van Opals have seamlessly weaved all these themes into one, strong, clear narrative.
While watching this beautiful, heart rending piece, images of the television series Westworld flashed across my mind. Those gorgeous robots, having found consciousness, struggle to find their own humanity while flesh and blood humans treat them as pleasure objects to be pulled apart and put back together on a whim.
In Rambert’s exceptional dancers, the van Opals have found the perfect tools to express their original, compelling and well thought out point of view. Eye Candy is some of the best contemporary choreography that you’ll ever see, by choreographers at their height of their powers, brought to life by some of the finest contemporary dancers in the world.
I felt the second piece, Rouge, was less successful. Rouge is choreographed by Marion Motin and, according to Rambert, “… is what happened when we invited pop’s coolest choreographer to work with Rambert’s daring dancers.” Rouge certainly starts strongly, with an incredible opening sequence, which is simplicity itself but extremely effective – dancers collapsing and rising again.
Somewhere along the line, it loses its way. If you were to watch the whole piece on video and pause it at any point – the frozen screen would look beautiful, creative and compelling. Somehow, though, each dance sequence didn’t seem to me to blend to create a cohesive whole or to express a strong point of view.
It definitely looks cool. But I want much more than that from my contemporary dance. I want to be transferred into the choreographer’s consciousness to experience their world view through their own eyes. This didn’t happen in Rouge. Rouge is a sequence of cool dance moves, danced by beautiful, skilled dancers in trendy clothes - and for those reasons alone, many people will love it.
Rambert’s home studio is a lifeline for those who love contemporary dance but, for whatever reason, can’t see shows in real life. These shows, streamed live, are beautifully produced, technically seamless and bring an intimate and focussed experience into your home that you would not get if you saw the show in real life. Long may it continue!
The Oxford Playhouse has provided guidance that Eye Candy is not suitable for unaccompanied people under 15. Every child is different, so I wanted to give a little more detail to allow parents to decide. Sex and sexuality are explored (among other things) in Eye Candy. While none of it is gratuitous – it is definitely confrontational and unambiguous.
There is also nudity – the costumes, while covering the dancers’ own bodies, show realistic breasts. The costumes are also flesh coloured so give the impression of complete nudity despite not showing genitalia. There also is violence and sexual violence against both sexes – again – it is not gratuitous but part of the overall exploration of humanity. This is a beautiful and disturbing piece, and I am aware that many children are particularly sensitive right now, so parents will need to consider this carefully.
All photos used with permission of Rambert.
*I had to block out part of the feature photo so that it would show up on social media.