Rambert at 90: the ballet company that made British dance a homegrown hit

The mould-breaking dance company is celebrating its ninth decade. We trace the nimble steps that took it from a raggle-taggle bunch of students to global name

Marie Rambert had no idea she was making history when she and her little dance troupe made their debut at the Lyric Hammersmith 90 years ago. Her raggle-taggle bunch of student dancers faced stiff competition in London that year: Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes were dancing two packed seasons, including the British premiere of Bronislava Nijinska’s monumental Les Noces, a glowing restaging of The Firebird, and the return of two of the company’s star ballerinas, Tamara Karsavina and Lydia Lopokova. Meanwhile, the Cochran revue boasted work by the great Leonid Massine.

Adding to Rambert’s troubles was the prejudice, still strong among the British public, that ballet was a foreign art form: Russian with a dash of Italian and French. A homegrown ballet company could only be an amateur aberration.

An instinct for experiment and survival was deep in Rambert’s DNA

Related: Long-forgotten images of Rambert and the birth of modern dance – in pictures

Under Richard Alston, Rambert shifted towards an abstract, modernist aesthetic, with startling design and new scores

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Source: Guardian Dance News

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