DANCE Rosemary Lee Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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The Independent Culture
When the decor for a dance consists of more than a hundred lighted candles spread in a wedge across the stage, and the choreographer calls the piece Exhale, it is not altogether absurd to imagine that at the end she will try to extinguish them a with one mighty breath, like those on a birthday cake. No such luck at the QEH on Saturday. Rosemary Lee, tall and slender, wearing a more than floor-length blue dress, stood at one end of this illuminated phalanx, slowly waved her upstretched arms, crouched and beat her fists down, all at great length, and at the end just stopped.

But actually the whole concert, a collaboration between Lee and the composer Alexander Balanescu, proved a let-down, made worse by shambolic delays and lighting errors. The best number, a solo for Gill Clarke, was sabotaged by having the house lights go on for a while, and then the stage plunged into pitch blackness as the dance was reaching its climax.

This dance, called "The Galliard", had the subtitle "every morning before breakfast" because the first Queen Elizabeth alleged to have danced it then. A likely tale. And what the Hollywood-vamp red velvet frock and the frequent handstands had to do with the virgin queen I cannot imagine. But I suppose some of the sprightly steps came from the original old court dance, and Clarke is a dancer of rare quality and intelligence, so the result had an energy, complexity and interest unmatched elsewhere in the evening.

Balanescu, besides writing all the music and leading his quartet, obviously fancies himself as a theatrical performer. In one of the two non-danced items, Still With Me, he wore a brown gangster hat and recited a series of historical news items from eastern Europe, coming right up to last week with the story about Lenin's tomb. How far back in time he started I cannot say, because the first third or so was unintelligible, perhaps through having his mouth too close to the microphone.

In the final dance, Silver, Balanescu (dressed as a portly undertaker) and the other musicians constantly pushed on to dancing space, threatening the soloist, Simon Whitehead, with their bows flicked like whips or, worse still, with their insistently sinister playing. Whitehead, poor chap, had to promenade round the stage with a crippled gait, unwinding now and again with a little circuit of runs and jumps.

Eventually he managed to escape into the wings, and it was a relief when, after some more scraping and prowling by Balanescu, I could follow his example and depart.

John Percival

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