centrepiece; Fingers in flames

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The Independent Culture
The house lights dim and a man steps to the front of the stage. Nothing unusual in that, but the trained eye soon spots that his hands are in flames. O Vertigo's performances are filled with such wonders: how can his hands burn and not be consumed? How can so many people hit each other so hard and not fall over?

This 10-strong Canadian company is what is known in the trade as a very "physical" dance company. On their last visit to Britain they gave us Ginette Laurin's La Chambre Blanche, a violent free-for-all set in a bath- house. Hitting one another and not falling over was the main thrust of early Eighties contemporary dance. To find it still well and living in Montreal in 1993 came as something of a surprise to London dance critics who had moved on a bit since then. That said, they continue to surprise and delight international audiences with their bold and original stage effects. Dancemakers are becoming increasingly conscious of stage lighting and the huge lift it can give a performance. Ginette Laurin's latest work is an apocalyptic hallucination Deluge which features a startling lighting design by Axel Mogenthaler. An added bonus is live musical accompaniment by Jocelyn Pook.

Meanwhile, north of the river, Chitrasena Dance Ensemble makes a belated return visit to Sadler's Wells. The company was founded in the Thirties to revive the traditional and ritual dances of Sri Lanka that had lapsed during colonial rule. The result has all the ingredients you might expect: sumptuous costumes, stylised poses, fleet footwork and Eastern promise. But the cabaret spectacle is energised by the constant intoxicating rhythm of the drums...

Louise Levene

O Vertigo Danse, QEG, SE1 (0171-928 8800) tonight, tomorrow, pounds 10-pounds 14.

Chitrasena Dance Ensemble, Sadler's Wells, EC1 (0171-713 6000) Tue-Sat 7.30pm. Sat mat 2.30pm, pounds 5-pounds 20

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