Weirdly enough, for someone who does not have a single clue about dance and its world, I was already familiar with work done by this extraordinary lot. For those of you who watched the epic last season of Peaky Blinders, let me re-introduce you. Rambert is one of the world’s leading independent dance companies and so being the total professional that I am, I’d be lying if I said that I absolutely didn’t freak out when I heard from them just a few hours after watching the episode.
UNSETTLED was lucky enough to chat with their newly formed division, Rambert2, a young ensemble of 12 refreshingly diverse dancers. I met with Max Cookward and Melody Tamiz, two members from this year’s crew.
What do you think is the most rewarding part about being a performer?
Max: You do the hard work and you go on an emotional rollercoaster when you get to share it with people. With family and people who don’t usually go to the theatre and you see how much happiness they get from it. It’s nice to be part of an industry that makes people happy, not like banking or something.
Is that daunting? Dancing in such a vulnerable space?
Melody: It can be but I guess what I find is that you enter a different space so in a way it’s not so much when you get to stage and you’re like ‘oh I’m on stage, there are people watching me” but it’s more like ‘I’m in this world and I’m sharing it’ with everyone.
Max: It depends on who the audience is and what you’re dancing, it’s all circumstantial. It’s daunting when you’re performing for the team or choreographers but when it’s kids, it is super rewarding and nice.
Do you both come from a creative family? Or was dance something you discovered in your own time and passion?
Max: My family doesn’t work in the arts. I have two mums and they both bake for charity, I did some outreach things for that. I guess that’s creative, so it counts?
Melody: Mine aren’t creative at all. My mum was an interior designer that’s about it. They never really watched dance, I was the first one who did something really brash and they were all a bit like ‘whoa what is this thing?’
My mum didn’t know the different aspects of what a dancer could do, she was more like ‘hey we could open a school!’ and that’s how it would go. But I had to explain to her that there was a whole other part of it to explore such as being a professional dancer for a company, or becoming a teacher or doing freelance. It was a bit difficult explaining it but here we are.
If you weren’t a dancer what would you be?
Max: Maybe something to do with design, product design. Definitely something creative and something that’s not office-based. Because I’m not someone who’s a dancer because it is physical, if that was the case I would be a runner or a baseball player but if I wasn’t a dancer I think I’d just like to do something arty.
Melody: When I was younger, I always used to say I wanted to open a wildcat sanctuary so maybe that. I would love to do that.
If you could dance to one album or like an artist, who would it be? Or song
Max: Either David August or Nico Muhly as they draw inspiration from classical music and it’s very atmospheric so it doesn’t typically sound classical. To dance to it gives you a lot of texture.
Melody: I literally can’t think of anything at this moment but I do enjoy blues or jazz. Experimental music is something I would love to dance to as well or improvised music where they’re in this space where they’re watching you and then creating a piece from what you’re doing.
Would you say that there are still limitations and stereotypes in the dance industry if there was one thing you could change what would it be?
Max: In contemporary dance companies or even most dance companies, everything is still gendered. Castings are still gendered. Being a male dancer, I often feel like I’m only used to lift. It’s not so much in environments like this but otherwise it is still so gendered. In a company, there’s often an equal amount of boys and girls and so it would be nice to sort of feel more equal.
Melody: To be able to be associated with more strength.
Max: I like being more feminine. I love dancing like a girl. Even costumes, like come on put me in something a bit more-
Both: Put me in a dress!
Rambert2 are a lovely bunch, so if you do have the chance to see them, you won’t be disappointed. Check their website for more information.
Massive thank you to Shaan Tulsiani who accompanied me to their rehearsals and filmed all the footage. Another big thank you to Joseph Goode for finding the time to edit this piece.