Arts: Dance: Crass, boring, stupid and pretentious

STREB BARBICAN CENTRE LONDON

I NEVER expected to see our old friend, a Covent Garden spokeswoman, stand up from her theatre seat at the raucous command of a domineering American woman, look at the floor, as commanded, to check that it was still there, pull herself up to her full height, and bounce up and down. She did draw the line at turning round and round, although her friend in the next seat, who writes for a national newspaper, went along with that nonsense too. You will be relieved to know that your representative lived up to this paper's name and remained firmly seated.

That episode was the last but not the silliest in an evening that, in its crass stupidity, was the most boring I have suffered in a long time. What tough luck for the Barbican to have this monstrosity recommended to open its second annual season of American dance; all the more so since its supposed unique selling-point turns out to be so much like too many other shows we have seen lately.

The performers (described as dancers in the programme, although there was no evidence to support this claim) spent their time hanging from wires or frames, bouncing against a wall, trampolining, jumping on top of each other and so on. One of them jumps, heavily gloved and garbed for safety, through a pane of glass and shatters it: big deal. Even as acrobats these people are not great.

In the programme notes the founder of the group, Elizabeth Streb, at every opportunity exudes high-falutin claims about her achievement, telling us how difficult, dangerous and original her work is.

In fact it struck me repeatedly that it was designed to look a lot more risky than it was. But to judge by the Barbican audience's applause, they get away with it.

Streb's window-breaking exercise, showing "the effect of action on substance", is, she says, only the beginning of a new enterprise, to include setting bodies alight by jumping through fire. Any volunteers from the audience to join in that when she gives the word?

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