Dance: Glimpses of strangers

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The Independent Culture
ROYAL BALLET ROYAL OPERA HOUSE LONDON

"A CELEBRATION of International Choreography" has a suitable flourish as the title of the Royal Ballet's first programme in its reopened theatre. But the evening feels misshapen, with a fragmented middle section devoted to overseas choreographers framed by two British world premieres. But allowing each of the overseas choreographers, some rarely seen here, just ten minutes' stage time seems like short shrift. And, although the selection changes during the run, most of it consists of pas de deux, which becomes monotonous after a while.

The exception in Wednesday's five-item sampler was a fluent and original male trio, "Remanso", by the Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato. The Royal Ballet's Jonathan Cope, Carlos Acosta and Inaki Urlezaga played refreshing games of exits and entrances with a central screen, freezing against it like life drawings on paper. Among the pas de deux was John Neumeier's "Lento", the only offering specially created for the occasion. Otto Bubenicek (from Neumeier's Hamburg company) and Darcey Bussell, glamorous in red leotards, imprinted impossible contortions against a sky-blue backdrop, Bussell's endless legs swinging in great arcs like dividers.

Siobhan Davies's A Stranger's Taste, which opened the programme, has a characteristically strong, if quiet beauty, yet lacks the concentrated energies of her own company's pieces on more intimate stages. Even so, the long, low lines of her dance language find sympathy with ballet's geometries, the two styles merging in a creative dialogue. The mix of modern and traditional dance is paralleled by the choice of 17th- and 18th-century composers interspersed with John Cage's prepared piano pieces. Peter Abegglen, Deborah Bull and Jenny Tattersall have the ease of old hands who participated with members of Davies's company in her Thirteen Different Keys project last summer.

Ashley Page's closing Hidden Variables takes the name of Colin Matthews's score, in turn is a response to the Chaos Theory of physics. Perhaps that is why Page's choreography looks so hectic. Sprawling groups of dancers appear and disappear for no good reason; Carlos Acosta blazes across the stage in furious leaps, torn between two women. By the end, Antony McDonald's irritating moving walls and projections reveal humanity on the edge of a black void, but the choreography takes a long time getting there.

`A Celebration of International Choreography', Royal Opera House (0171- 304 4000), 16 Dec and 20, 21 & 29 Jan

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