Dance: Highland springs

Scottish Ballet Sadler's Wells, London Tango Pasin Lyric, London

Scottish Ballet has been through the mill these last few years. Rocked by crisis after crisis, it has had to justify its very existence. Does Scotland really need its own classical dance company? For an answer, one could canvas the far-flung highlands and islands which the company takes pains to visit every year. Or measure the applause at Sadler's Wells last Thursday when it made its first London appearance in 20 years. Stylish, dynamic and hugely ambitious, this outfit bears every sign of becoming a major national asset.

The ambition showed in the choice of programme, beginning with a rare revival of Kenneth MacMillan's Diversions - one of the few plotless works he made and thus, to me, one of the less appealing, despite technical demands which range from the punishing to the downright fiendish. The company seemed more at ease with the tangible emotion swashing around Lila York's Rapture, an extravagant half-hour on the theme of dying and going to heaven. Perhaps only an American could get away with this - but she does, with a pinch of schmaltz and a heavy dose of pizazz.

It's a nebulous opening, limbs rising slowly through murk, like corpses erupting from a graveyard, but then things hot up big time. Air-wheeling figures romp in long diagonals across the stage, boys leap like spring lambs, toes scissoring up to touch foreheads; girls sprint and skid in long, joyful arcs. The score, a grand patchwork of Prokofiev piano concertos, keeps up a cracking pace thanks to pianist Lynda Cochrane and a terrific orchestra which I presumed to be Scottish Ballet's own. The slow movement summons visions of death and decay, then joy breaks out in more teeming upward motion, ending in a crowded tableau like a fully-opened sunflower. Impossible optimism, hopeless escapism, but that's what ballet does so well.

The meat of the evening should have been the commission from Tim Rushton, a young British choreographer based in Denmark, but nIghT LiFe (does he need a new typewriter?) turned out to have more style than content. This must be the first ever dance work inspired by a chat room on the Internet. It also claims to reflect the life of Glasgow's clubbers, though these characters looked rather too Vogueish to have spent many nights on the tiles.

The plot is touchingly naive. Girl seeks good time, finds only poseurs and gropers. Girl tries a bit harder, finds boy, and labours to establish a bond, unknown in this world of instant thrills. They kiss. The end. Lez Brotherston's set is a major plus - a series of elegant white prosceniums which take on luscious hints of mauve and grey and cream - and so is the music: not the ear-slamming dub you expect, but Bach at his most sublime. The mood is restrained, the movement modish and easy-on-the-eye, but ultimately rather shallow. All praise though, to the central couple, Lorna Scott and Ivan Dinev, who give gorgeous suppleness and clarity right to the final clinch.

The mating game is also sole focus of the latest Argentine tango show to arrive in London. The difference is that these couples have steam coming out of their ears. Tango Pasin takes on the cabaret format we've come to expect of theatre-tango: cafe tables, a fruity 50-a-day singer, an orchestra of jowly old men who draw astoundingly virile sounds from squeeze box and fiddle, and dancing couples whose major achievement - once you've got over their slicing speed and prowess - is to make you believe they are ready to rut at the drop of a well-dented fedora.

Over the course of two hours you think you get to know these spangly couples and their not-so-private fancies. There's the Dan Dare who appears to crush his partner with his massive bulk while she jabs at him with spike heels; there's the foxy modern duo who go in for tricksy aerial leg-splits, and there's the loping Thirties cove with the air of Robert Donat in The Thirty-Nine Steps with the girl who sports a series of amazing spray-on dresses. I swear I have never seen so many variations on a pencil skirt as appear in this show - sequinned, lamed, tasselled. The only uniform feature is that important split to the hip to let the scissor- legs do their stuff.

Tango, born in the slums of Buenos Aires, has an intriguing history, but like every other tango show we've seen, Tango Pasin fudges it with a brief nod to "the olden days" (a skit in bustles and bonnets) before moving on to a titillating mish-mash of nowadays. Will someone please devise a show which highlights the great dances that went into this urban melting pot: the milonga, say, and the candombe, and the habanera, followed by a step-by-step expose of tango from 1890 to the present. Now that would be a show to get passionate about.

'Tango Pasin': Lyric, W1 (0171 494 5045) to early August

Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette

film
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz