This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

Rambert Spring

Dutch sibling duo and NDT alumni Imre and Marne van Opstal’s “Eye Candy” was first presented to audiences as a digital dance work last summer. Almost a year later, it made its live UK theatre debut last week as the opening performance of Rambert’s latest triple bill of works. Exploring the theme of body politics, “Eye Candy” features a cast of eight dancers dressed in synthetic moulded torsos giving the impression of nudity. Adding stiff, perky breasts and tight six packs to the performer’s already toned and athletic bodies, these costumes cleverly introduce conversations around unattainable beauty standards even before any motion ensues.


Rambert: “Eye Candy” by Imre and Marne von Opstal, “Cerberus” by Ben Duke, and “Following the Subtle Current Upstream” by Alonzo King


Sadler’s Wells, London, UK, May 18, 2022


Emily May

Rambert in Ben Duke's “Cerberus.” Photograph by Camilla Greenwell

subscribe to the latest in dance

“Uncommonly intelligent, substantial coverage.”

  • Weekly articles from the world of dance
  • Wide diversity of reviews, interviews, articles & more
  • Support for quality art journalism

Already a paid subscriber? Login

When it does, the audience are presented with a movement language combining the rigid and mechanical with the technical and virtuosic. The former is particularly engaging: moments when the cast assemble into tight phalanxes and shunt robotically around the stage make them look like a dehumanised army of mannequins, and a scene in which one performer sits and lip syncs to the accompaniment, her mouth sharply opening and closing, makes her appear like a ventriloquist’s dummy.

As to be expected in a work exploring the “pains and pleasures of the human body,” themes of sexuality and sensuality naturally arise in “Eye Candy.” Throughout the work there’s kissing, staccato pelvic thrusts, and sensual crotch caresses. While this lens was important for me when I first watched “Eye Candy” online, on second viewing it is the topic of the plight of dancers that catches my interest.

Dylan Tedaldi and Daniel Davidson in Imre van Opstal and Marne van Opstal's “Eye Candy.” Photograph by Camilla Greenwell

From a duet between two male performers who shuffle around stage in deep seconds as the audience snicker at their caricatured, panicked faces, to a scene in which a female dancer is covered by multiple hands and involuntarily pulled in different directions—a finger manipulating her eyebrow appears to be a direct reference to a similar moment in Pina Bausch’s “Kontakthof” (1978)—I can’t help but contemplate how, as a dancer, your body is not your own. It’s a tool for the entertainment of others, to be poked and prodded in technique class and observed by thousands of audience members onstage.

Next up, Ben Duke’s “Cerberus” is the standout work of the night. Using the three-headed, canine guardian of the underworld as a title and jumping off point, the work is a musing on mortality: a poignant selection of subject matter considering the painful losses many have suffered over the past two years due the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aishwarya Raut in Ben Duke's “Cerberus.” Photograph by Camilla Greenwell

Blending together movement, spoken-word, and comedy to create a humorous, and somewhat meta, take on the human condition, “Cerberus” sees numerous characters walk solemnly and stagger frantically in horizontal pathways—seemingly driven by the sporadic drumming of the onstage percussionist—until they “exit stage left,” which we are informed through spoken text is a euphemism for passing into the underworld.

The very first stage left exit of the performance prompts a funeral attended by mourners dressed in black suits, lace dresses, and ostentatious headpieces to emerge. One bemused Italian-speaking dancer is forced into giving a eulogy, yet he maintains that this is all just a theatrical ruse: the audience shouldn’t panic, the dancer they’re mourning is backstage and has a great solo in the next piece. Is he telling the truth? Or is he merely in denial? Whichever it is, he is determined to stop his fellow castmates going to the same fate as his friend, as he and his translator earnestly engage in a British bulldog-esque attempt to prevent performers from getting sucked into the wings throughout the performance. At one point, he even tries to dive stage left himself in an effort to emulate Orpheus’ famous underworld rescue mission.

Musa Motha in Ben Duke's “Cerberus.” Photograph by Camilla Greenwell

Though comical, “Cerberus” is not devoid of sentimentality. In fact, it is the combination of both these aspects that makes it so potent. After laughing out loud for the first half of the performance, in the second I’m left in tears. The most affecting scene, for me, sees pairs of dancers connected by long ropes. While one half of each pair lies inanimate on the floor, the other struggles in a futile attempt to drag them back to stage right, and hence life. Accompanied by a voiceover in which a woman tells the audience where to find their bank details and asks them to “always remember that I love you,” it poignantly represents the inevitability of death, and physically embodies the emotional weight carried by the people left behind.

Comfort Kondehson in Alonzo King's “Following the Subtle Current Upstream.” Photograph by Camilla Greenwell

Rounding off the programme is Alonzo King’s “Following the Subtle Current Upstream.” Simply described as a “return to joy,” the piece in fact starts ominously with dim lighting and a soundtrack of clanging bells and a capella singing. However, as it progresses and a lively drum track kicks in, things get much more exuberant. Picking up different rhythms in the soundscore, Rambert’s dancers flourish and flicker across the stage in playful travelling sequences, maintaining precision in their movements despite their rapid pace.

As Rambert’s rendition marks the first time a British company has danced a piece by one of the U.S.’s most prominent choreographers, it’s understandable why it was chosen as the final performance of the night. However, following on from two recently created, strongly thematic pieces is a tall order for a 22-year-old work. As a result it comes across a little dated, especially in terms of its classical vocabulary and its traditional segmented structure of sequential solos, duets, trios, and full cast unison sections. Perhaps it would have fared better in a different line up?

Emily May

Emily May is a British-born, Berlin-based arts writer and editor specializing in dance and performance. An alumna of Trinity Laban Conservatoire for Music and Dance and a member of the Dance Section of the U.K. Critics' Circle, she regularly contributes to publications across Europe and America including Dance Magazine, Art Review, Frieze, The Stage, Flash Art, The Brooklyn Rail, and Springback Magazine. She is currently an editor at COLORSxSTUDIOS, where she launched and continues to manage a new editorial platform.



REVIEWS | Rachel Howard

Level Up

Sacramento Ballet executive and artistic director Anthony Krutzkamp dresses sharp and gives a memorable pre-curtain speech. The way he tells it, the Central California company was in rehearsals for “Swan Lake” last year when he realized he faced an enviable problem: the dancers were too good for the ballets he’d programmed under a five-year plan. 

Continue Reading
They Were There
BOOKSHELF | Candice Thompson

They Were There

In her new  biography, The Swans of Harlem, journalist Karen Valby is witness to the testimony of five pioneering Black ballerinas intimate with the founding history of Dance Theatre of Harlem. 

Continue Reading
The Joy of Dance
INTERVIEWS | Victoria Looseleaf

The Joy of Dance

If one wants a glimpse of Joy Womack’s rock-star like schedule, take a look at her Instagram account. One day she might be dancing in Paris—her current home base—another day it’s Florence, then it’s Lagos, Guayaquil, and Melbourne.

Continue Reading
Sundays on Broadway
FEATURES | Cecilia Whalen

Sundays on Broadway

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Cathy Weis' “Sundays on Broadway,” a performance series that welcomes experimentation from a curated group of seasoned and emerging artists hosted intimately in Weis’ SoHo loft. 

Good Subscription Agency