DANCE / Narrative force: Judith Mackrell reviews Stories at the QEH and Necessary Weather at the Riverside

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THE drama in Siobhan Davies' Wanting to Tell Stories isn't the stuff of high tragedy or star-crossed romance, it's made out of glimpses of small individual lives. Six dancers move in the spaces created by two huge screens, metal grids that move round the stage to form corridors, boxes or wide-open vistas. It's as if the piece gives us entry into dozens of private rooms.

What takes place in them never gels into a storyline, though, for Davies has crafted her movement so that it suggests tiny fragments of relationships, simply lifts the curtain on long-running scenarios. In one space, a woman runs a wide haunted circle looking over her shoulder for an escape or maybe a friend. In another, two lovers dance in the rhythm of a lazy familiar conversation. These images, though, are loaded. One passing gesture, where the man scoops up the woman's foot and cradles it, so that she's standing stork-like on one leg, suggests volumes about the nature of their intimacy - sexual, jokey but very vulnerable to shifts in the balance of power.

What Davies triumphantly affirms in this piece is that dance has stories of extraordinary richness to tell, without having to commit itself to making literal sense. She also shows how emotional power is inseparable frum the pure pleasures of rhythm, pattern and line. Set to Kevin Volans' score for piano, viola, clarinet and double-bass, Davies' choreography responds as much to the larger driving rhythm of the music as to its haunting melodic fragments. Long lines of energy pour through the movement - stalling into vividly etched shapes, disciplining themselves into complex rhythmic play - but always generating ever more apparently effortless and inventive dance.

In Stories, Peter Mumford's lighting is a powerful tool for intensifying the dramstic atmosphere. In Necessary Weather, Jennifer Tipton's lighting creates its own architecture, colour and magic. Tipton is, in fact, listed as co-choreographer along with Dana Reitz and Sara Rudner, creating as she does a kind of structure within which the dancers move.

At one point, the stage is quartered into four pools of light, drawing in the two women from the darkness around them. At another, Tipton sends an almost solid column of gold streaming down from ceiling to floor, a column that seems to hold Reitz captive as she stands in the beam's embrace.

The lighting also works an alchemical reaction with the movement. When it throws the dancers into high definition it blasts up the volume of their energy; when it casts them into silhouette, or gilds them with a rosy glow they become figures of mystery and reticence. Reitz and Rudner are in no way objects in a light show, though.

Veterans of the New York Seventies avant-garde, they are performers of limpid subtlety and easy charisma. Within the choreographed structure of the piece, both women fill the stage with their own strikingly articulate personalities. In Rudner an almost garrulously elastic energy bounds and rebounds through her body. Reitz moves like some tall slender bird, her limbs, hands and face preturnatually alert as she seems to sense out the space around her. Their dancing is minimal in that it stays close to the body, doesn't grab for big technical effects. But it's dense in inquiring, intimate detail, full of varied currents of movement.

Performed in silence, with no set, Necessary Weather may be spare in its means, but the result is dazzlingly sophisticated dance.

(Photograph omitted)