“Movement, perpetual movement, was my element.” These words, spoken by Marie Rambert, founder of Britain’s oldest dance company Rambert, are carved onto a beam in the company’s base in London. They are also the inspiration behind Perpetual Movement, a major new exhibition at The Lowry that is part of a nationwide programme marking the company’s 90th anniversary; a Polish émigré and former Russian ballet dancer, Marie Rambert came to London in 1914 to escape the outbreak World War I and founded a dance company in Kensington, which had its first performance in 1926.
Marie Rambert died in 1982, but her influence outlives her: Perpetual Movement is guided by her call for continual change in the search for new art and ideas. The exhibition brings together specially-commissioned work by international artists, alongside a carefully curated selection of objects, footage and costumes from the Rambert dance company’s archives. It showcases the relationship between contemporary dance and art; one of the artists, Goshka Macunga, also Polish-born, presents a performative installation piece preoccupied by the physicality, bodily limits and repetition involved in dancing, whilst also gesturing to the figures typically depicted in L.S. Lowry’s work.
Macunga was nominated for the 2008 Turner Prize and has previously created an android in human form that waxed lyrical about philosophy, and a mannequin of a somnambulist. This new piece was created is in collaboration with David Roberts Art Foundation, and combines music, costume, performance, choreography and art. Leila Johnston, on the other hand, has designed an immersive LED installation using both standard and heat mapping filming of dancers. She was the first ever digital artist-in-residence at Rambert (Oct 2015 – Feb 2016), and the work – titled Dance With Me – will encourage the audience’s involvement in the spectacle.
Much like a dance production, Perpetual Movement also has its own finale: artist Katie Paterson’s work Candle (from Earth into a Black Hole) will be lit to burn down over 12 hours, slowly releasing 23 separate scents that have been detected by scientists as existing in various positions in space. The Moon, for instance, smells like ‘burnt gunpowder’, the Stratosphere like geraniums and Mars like an ‘old penny’. Paterson’s candle alludes to themes of duration, performance and collaboration, having called on the expertise of scientists internationally. It’s a fitting send off for an exhibition as ephemeral and enduring as dance.