DANCE / Mixed marriage made in heaven

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The Independent Culture
THEY ALL thought Shobana Jeyasingh a little eccentric for inviting the British contemporary dance pioneer Richard Alston to create a piece for her dance company of five classical Indian dancers. They will have to think again. His piece, Delicious Arbour, performed as part of the Dance Umbrella season at The Place on Friday, is a triumph of clear, exquisite and truthful dance. It was as though Alston had gone abroad to learn a new language and submitted poetry as a first composition. To the jauntiness of Purcell, he reshapes this new- to-him vocabulary of expressive hands, strong torsos, bended knees and drumming feet in solos, duets and group dance of striking fluency.

Jeyasingh has established herself as one of this country's most brilliant creators. Her new piece, the intricate and speedy ROMANCE . . . with footnotes, strikes two distinct moods - certainty and risk. Stamping feet resonate to a chanting voice; this is recognisable Bharatha Natyam. Then, to Glyn Perrin's music, she ventures into thrilling new areas - a headstand, back-bends, free, personal dance, beautifully performed. Jeyasingh's imagination is boundless, her dance brave and exhilarating. The best of Dance Umbrella so far.

Music aside, you would expect dance to be silent. Not any more. These days dancers are using as much jaw-jaw as corps-corps. 'Multi-media' - as publicists call the synthesis of dance, music and text - is the latest trend in contemporary dance, and at Riverside Studios on Tuesday, David Rousseve and Reality Dance Company proved fine exponents of it.

An American dancer, choreographer and director, Rousseve presented Colored Children Flyin' By. In cycle shorts and vest, he recounts his childhood experiences in comedian-style stand-up routines. He was one of the first kids to be bused into a white school in the Sixties. On the first day at the white school, his classmates were in high spirits. 'Your mommy, your daddy, your greasy granny has holes in her panties,' they chanted. Inside the classroom, Rousseve started to blow on the back of the head of the boy in front, and, amazingly, the hair moved. 'With African-American hair, a hurricane can blow through it and nothing moves.'

The piece alternates Rousseve's enchanting patter with simple, New York street dance by his company of six dancers to rap, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin. Y'all don't have to feel bad about the fate of African-Americans, racism and Aids, Rousseve implies. Y'all just laugh at me, this friendly black man who knew as a child he was good at being in a white world. And he is - mostly. Prim whites value order, tidiness, neat connections, and by darting from tale to tale, Rousseve flouts these. But his sunny delivery carries the show.

Elsewhere in the festival Matthew Hawkins and Company beatify Tchaikovsky 100 years after his death in Fresh Dances for the Late Tchaikovsky, performed at the Hackney Empire on Thursday. Hawkins ignores the rich seam of Tchaikovsky's frustrated life as a sexual outcast to tack together a clumsy and witless work so empty of vision, character and choreography that it was a battle to stay awake. Dull and embarrassing.

Dance Umbrella (081-741 4040) continues to 7 Nov.