David Mead

Rambert Dance Company's new home on the South Bank. Photo © Rambert Dance Comapny

Rambert Dance Company’s new home on the South Bank.
Photo © Rambert Dance Comapny

Britain’s largest contemporary dance company, Rambert, has taken up residence in its splendid new, £19.6 million home in the heart of London’s South Bank, next to Waterloo Bridge and facing the National Theatre.

The new building, 12 years in the planning, is located on a site on Upper Ground owned by social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders. This land has been made available to Rambert in return for a commitment to provide a significant community dance programme in the local area, and for a peppercorn rent of one pair of ballet shoes a year. The new building has been realised through £12.6 million raised from private sources, and £7 million of public money from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

For the first time, the new facility gives dance a permanent home on London’s South Bank. It’s hoped that it will nurture, develop and realise the creativity of choreographers and dancers alike. It is certainly well-equipped.

The new building covers 3,650 square metres of floor space. There are three main studios. The Marie Rambert Studio is named after the company’s founder. At 306 square metres, it is the same size as the stage at Sadler’s Wells, the largest theatre the company tours to. The size of the studio will also allow the company will to rehearse together with the Rambert Orchestra for the first time, before they reach venues. The smaller Mercury Studio is named after the Mercury Theatre, the company’s first home; and the Anya Linden Studio is named in recognition of the generous contribution to the fundraising campaign of the Monument Trust and Linbury Trust, two of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts.

The company’s archive will have a new home in the basement, which has been tanked to protect it from ingress from the water table and river, and has carefully managed climate control to protect the collections. The archive is one of the UK’s most extensive, including over 500 costumes and 700 posters, thousands of images, costumes and artefacts, dance notation and over 650 hours of footage, newly digitised thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Public access will be available in a dedicated reading room.Other facilities include physiotherapy and body conditioning facilities, and a sauna.

The building features specially commissioned artworks by leading British artists Gary Breeze, Goshka Macuga, Abigail Reynolds and Catherine Yass.

It is planned that connections with the local neighbourhood will extend to all parts of the community. People of all ages and abilities will be welcomed into the building to join in a greatly expanded programme of open dance classes and workshops.

The new Marie Rambert Studio.  Photo © Hugo Glendinning

The new Marie Rambert Studio.
Photo © Hugo Glendinning

Rambert in 2014

Artistic Director Mark Baldwin’s plans for the first year in the company’s new home include three large-scale commissions. Baldwin himself will make a new piece in collaboration with acclaimed visual artist Katie Paterson, with new music by former Rambert music fellow Cheryl Francis-Hoad. There will be also be a first creation for Rambert from Shobana Jeyasingh, and a new piece by Alexander Whitley, a former Rambert dancer recently and recently appointed Associate Artist.

The company will also revive two classic works from the past: Christopher Bruce’s always popular “Rooster”, danced to the iconic music of the Rolling Stones; and “Four Elements”, a 1990 commission for the company by American choreographer Lucinda Childs, to music by Gavin Bryars.

Site-specific works will also be created for the building, including projects delivered in collaboration with Rambert’s cross-disciplinary residents and fellows: scientist in residence Professor Nicola Clayton, artist in residence Abigail Reynolds, and music fellow Kate Whitley.

Speaking about the move, Mark Baldwin said, “I am so excited by the opportunities our new home offers – not just a building fit for purpose that our fabulous dancers can train and work in, but a laboratory ripe for creating new work, for collaboration with world class artists, and for generating new ideas. Every aspect of this building has been designed with the express purpose of laying bare the process of contemporary dance, allowing us to create an open house that will excite and inspire audiences. The time has come for dance to take its place on the South Bank among other prestigious arts organisations, and it seems fitting to me that Rambert, with its unique combination of heritage and pioneering vision, is the company to bring it here.”