Dance: The pleasures of deviation

Bound to Please Arts Theatre, Cambridge

Lloyd Newson's work for DV8 is complex at the best of times. In Bound to Please he has deliberately set out to avoid traditional theatrical pleasures like exposition and resolution in favour of a rich, multi-layered approach to his subject. And your chosen subject is? Dance as a metaphor for the elimination of individuality. You have 70 minutes starting from ... Now.

We open with the 67-year-old Diana Payne-Myers in black practice clothes before a wall of mirrors gliding by on the stage-revolve to the tinkling strains of a musical box. Behind her, glimpsed through a narrow doorway, a party of young ravers twitch and shrug within a movement system as coded and uniform as a ballet. Ian MacNeil's ingenious set rotates as the scene changes, the walls folding and unfolding on their axis to create discrete spaces that make brilliant use of the small stage.

The disco dancers, already counting beneath their breath, metamorphose into solitary waltzers and twirl dreamily through the room until put off their stroke by Wendy Houston, who passes among them disrupting the tidy rhythm of their dance. Back at the dance studio, neatly tricked out in black leotards, the company's eight dancers, led by Robert Tannion, go through daily class. "Right, left, right, left, right, right" intones Tannion briskly. "Wrong," mutters Wendy Houston, who then asks the unthinkable: "Why are we going to do this anyway?" "I'm just trying to get everyone to be the same," Tannion replies, evenly. That does it. Exasperated by the tidiness of it all, she sneaks around the studio pushing dancers off- balance.

Although scarcely a narrative work, Bound to Please definitely has a heroine in Houston. Naughty, unconventional and disobedient, she subverts any attempt to sand down the rough edges of her personality. She may obligingly perform an arabesque, then pull down her pants and begin scratching her bum. But the pressure to conform prettily proves too much even for her: "Good Wendy," she says to herself, after completing a dizzy series of fouettes, and slips tragically into the value system that she has hitherto despised.

Once outside the shell of the room, the dancers reveal their other faces: Wendy Houston secretly practises her arabesque on the roof; Diana Payne- Myers and her young lover embrace in a narrow corridor. Lloyd Newson is alarmed at dance's insistence on youth and beauty, and his use of Diana Payne-Myers's emaciated naked body is unquestionably a valid challenge to our assumptions about what dancers are supposed to look like. I have to say, however, that I have never seen a naked 67-year-old washing their armpits in a bucket before and that I am in no particular hurry to repeat the experience. It isn't a matter of age - I have enough trouble with Javier de Frutos. I can't help finding nudity a distraction: my mind wanders and I start thinking about signing up for a gym or getting a lock for the bathroom door.

By the closing sequence, we are back in the never-never land of unison with four dancers doing a cheesy little routine of leaps and battements against a Rosenthal blue backcloth to music that slyly parodies the banal minimalism so much in vogue. Their Prozac smiles stretch from ear to ear as they deliver a seamless stream of choreographic junk. It's a set-up, of course - unison wouldn't be worthwhile if it were always as bad as Newson's satire suggests - but the point is splendidly made. In conclusion, Diana Payne-Myers stands before a mirror only to see her reflection disappear: try too hard to please and you lose your very soul.

To Sat, Arts Theatre, Cambridge (01223 503333); 2-3 April, Swan, High Wycombe (01494 512000); 10-12 April, Tramway, Glasgow (0141-287 3900); and touring

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits