DANCE / Blank rage: Judith Mackrell on Teshigawara and Romeo and Juliet

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The Independent Culture
Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara is a consummate artist of surfaces - brilliant, inventive, precise - but chillingly impenetrable. His stage is not just a space where he can dance or rest, it's an immaculately assembled piece of installation art. '1000 books and 1000 shoes,' says the publicity for Bones in Pages at the Place, and you believe it. The books, facing out with their pages ruffled, line the walls in textured, light-reflecting patterns. The shoes are lined to cut a huge shadowy swathe across the floor. Sections of chair and table are stuck on to large perspex screens - and these complete the vision of a hyper-orderly world where everyday objects lose their substance to become shapes or ideas.

The work's first moving image shatters that. Teshigawara is slumped at a table covered with shards of perspex glass. Suddenly, from nowhere, a black crow flops down, stumbling over the glass fragments. It's a shockingly anarchic moment in a work that seems to explore the destruction of order. But nothing else lives up to it. For about 50 minutes Teshigawara performs a dance of rage and collapse. His knees buckle, his arms twitch and his body berates itself in shivering falls. For moments he collects himself in impassive calm before tearing down his exquisite set - causing a blizzard of torn pages and a storm of thrown shoes.

It doesn't matter too much that this ritual of destruction is predictable from the work's beginning, or that Teshigawara's choreography, despite its startling images, doesn't sustain the work's length. What's frightening and then numbing is the work's relentless impersonality. Its pain and rage are abstracts of emotion without resonance or history, its rituals are actions without meaning. As you watch Teshigawara threshing the air, it's like viewing a person behind thick glass. You can't hear what he's saying; he neither wants to let you in, or himself out. Maybe that's the point.

The point of Kenneth MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet is that you suffer and thrill right along with the ballet's characters - and Darcey Bussell, dancing her first Juliet on Saturday night ensured that you did. What she registered most sharply was Juliet's vulnerability. On first entering the Capulet ball, her face and body gag with the terror of not knowing how to behave. Playing the mandolin for Romeo's solo, she sits trapped and transfixed in the huge space of the ballroom, gazing at beautiful, dangerous Romeo like a hypnotised deer.

The intrusion of love into Juliet's world is both a glory and an agony to her, and the strength of these emotions propel her into maturity. Bussell's dancing matched the force of her acting throughout - launching herself into each passionate phrase of movement, she looked as if nothing could ever make her hesitate or even bring her to a stop.

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