DANCE / Alien visionaries

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The Independent Culture
Temporary Title by the Hungarian company TranzDanz leaves your categories in disarray, lying as it does between a funky jazz session, a folk-dance performance and one of those obscure confrontational pieces of political theatre that came out of Eastern Europe in the early Seventies. Whatever its genre, though, of all the European dance that London's seen over the last few years, this feels among the most foreign. Sitting in the Lilian Baylis on Wednesday night you could almost imagine yourself in a smokey basement theatre in downtown Budapest.

To start with, the seven dancers and musicians are big sturdy men who look completely unlike the average skinny Euro dance graduate. Also, contrary to the current vogue for design-led work, none of them are wearing carefully styled outfits but, apparently, the clothes they got up in. And what's going on in this odd and arresting piece seems to be a very local as well as very impassioned deconstruction of the performers' cultural roots.

The dancers' source is a powerful swinging folk-dance. Circling in a tight knot, they swivel their hips, crossing their legs in fierce curves, stamping their heels and clapping their hands, their arms lifted high to concentrate the movement's downward thrust. The energy and rhythm are hair-raising, the dancers look transfigured and intent. Personally, I am a sucker for this kind of dancing and would be happy to watch it for hours, preferably with the chance to join in. But for TranzDanz, old organic dances, like old cultures are clearly in crisis.

During various passages, the dancers break down the material into intriguing sequences of abstract rhythm, almost dislocated swings of the torso and legs. They elaborate new dances out of the old that are wholly contemporary in their statements of violence and isolation.

The accompanying music also tugs the dance between past and present. The wind player lets shrieking dissonances rip through his melodies, the bass and drums keep pulling the rhythm into modern jazz. Also disrupting the dance is an actor - kitted out like some late 1920s cabaret compere - who delivers his text in a mix of Kabuki drone, Sprechgesang and brutal rant. Broken snatches of comprehensible English 'love is dangerous', 'all that is illusion, everyone might perform' confirm the mood of precariousness and chaos.

In response, the musicians sometimes break into fearful cacophony, the dancers into body-berating violence - yet even where the performance hits a discomfiting pitch of noise and obscurity, you remain held by its urgency. Driven by a mission to find a new language for themselves, the performers seem genuinely to be fighting a battle between future possibilities and old ghosts.

The Turning World Season continues tonight with Mathilde Monnier / De Hexe, 8pm The Place (071-387 0031)

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