Arts: Dance - Bland on the run hotch

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The Independent Culture
UNION DANCE Company tries hard to live up to its name. Its dancers and collaborators represent ethnicities from around the world. It "seeks to develop its own movement vocabulary and dance aesthetic through exposure to philosophies, experiences and influences of other cultures". And so, to choreograph the two halves of its latest touring programme, LifeForms, Union Dance's director Corrine Bougaard has invited Laurie Booth and Doug Elkins. Booth is now based in Brighton, Elkins in New York, but both are men of the world, known for the magpie eclecticism of their dance.

LifeForms uses video technology, which is at its most ambitious in Booth's "Generic Signatures", where a camera tapes and simultaneously screens the dancers' movements with only a fractional time lag. But why do it? And why the occasional black outs? And why such long-winded, uninteresting dance with such arbitrary movement and desultory groupings? The choreographer talks about a "dynamic balance between probable form and probable chaos" in a programme note which seems suspiciously like covering his back.

Better to concentrate on Philip Jeck at his table on stage, from where he mixes melodies, crackles and percussion. The wonder is that he does all this with the most basic, Sixties home equipment - vinyl singles and EPs, a couple of portable record-players (apparently found in a junk shop) and a small control panel of buttons and levers.

Booth was always at his best performing his own choreography, pitching his body into slippery, idiosyncratic movement. But here the postures often look hackneyed. More original is Doug Elkins's choreography for "Starlings Scatter", blending street dance and martial arts with ballet and contemporary technique. The title refers to projections of cloudy skies with single cruising birds or great wheeling flocks. The recorded voices singing Monteverdi are reflected in baroque dance flourishes, most spectacularly in a smiling, bounding male solo for Bawren Tavaziva. This exists alongside the demotic, such as Michael Joseph and Garry Benjamin competing with breakdance floor spirals, or a joined-up trio, Charemaine Seet the girl in the middle.

But does such cultural fusion inevitably mean a flattening of differences? There is a pervasive evenness that gives every movement the same value. Elkins's choreography is only marginally less bland than Booth's. In trying to unify, Union Dance has mashed the contrasting textures into pap. But what do I know? Union Dance also aims for accessibility and is evidently on to something, according to the whooping hordes of school children.