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Note To Self

Benoit Swan Pouffer and others

Rambert2, livestream

September 16-18, 2021, 1 hr

Rambert2 in Benoit Swan Pouffer's Note To Self 2 photo by Camilla Greenwell
Rambert2 in Benoit Swan Pouffer's Note To Self. All pics: Camilla Greenwell

This was an extraordinary piece of work – genre-defying in some ways.

Benoit Swan Pouffer, Rambert’s artistic director, was working with a production team and the young dancers of the Rambert2 company, in a made-for-screen production available in just three one-off, live-streamed performances. I saw the second, on Friday night.

There were four creators involved, really: Pouffer, dramaturge Amy Baty, composer and sound designer Micka Luna, and set and costume designer David Curtis-Ring (many others get credits too, including projection designer Derek Richards). The show was very much a narrative ballet, in which "Eve" (Karlina Grace-Paṣeda, also credited as "created with") seemed to be an older person trying to make sense of her fragmentary reminiscences and meeting them in a sequence of scenes which the other dancers brought to life with her.

The point of the title was that Eve lived in a leaky room, plastered with written reminder notes helping her to cope with life despite a failing memory. Recorded and spoken sound helped us see what was in her mind.

The music and sound were based on five haunting tracks, mixed – in one case composed and performed, and all in some sense "arranged" – by Micka Luna, with the final one being a spiritual, Trouble of the World, by the Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir.

The scene accompanied by Salvatore Adamo’s En Blue Jeans et Blouson de Cuir was in a kind of orange-sepia light as if dimly recollected, and followed by Alain Barriere’s Ma Vie, where there was a relationship with a mysterious man. After that she entered a lift and returned to her lonely armchair… a blue-tinted scene (a nightmare?) followed, with some violent, aggressive movement, eventually revealing a gentler, loving couple’s dance. The final scenes, to Adamo’s Tombe la Neige, then Trouble of the World, were progressively brighter, more colourful, more feelgood and containing images of pain and darkness, moving to a crescendo of sound and triumph over adversity.

The whole concept was one that immediately appealed to young dancers, I would guess: what’s it like to be in the mind of an older person trying to make sense of the past… especially if the memories are something you seem to be losing hold of? The final sequence was triumphantly positive and affirming – and uplifting in its thought that heaven is just around the corner and "soon it will be done".

The remarkable thing about this as dance on screen was not just that amazingly complicated and mesmeric ensemble movement and mime were captured by the camera, but that much of the time the camera itself was choreographed, moving among the dancers as if an independent presence, part of the action as well as recorder of it. To do all that "live" was a tour de force.

And the performance was given in different parts of the Rambert building in London: if all in real-time, that was a technical miracle, but even if some bits were prerecorded you couldn’t fault the continuity. The whole show was, I hope, recorded for the future – streaming to audiences just as three one-offs with no further access seems parsimonious of so much talent and invention.

One minor complaint: the looping bit of video streamed while you were in the "waiting room" was annoying and quite unsettling, as it seemed to imply you hadn’t bought your ticket properly and might not see the show at all… especially when the performance didn’t get underway until a few minutes after the scheduled time. Others doing livestreams are more welcoming.

Note To Self was marketed through 13 major venues, 11 of them in the UK (plus one in Italy, one in Chile), of which Salford’s The Lowry is a proud member and will host the main company on stage early next month.

Ticket info (tonight only) here


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