DANCE / Rough-and-tumble at Heartbreak Hotel

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The Independent Culture
MARK MURPHY has made a black-and-white film and incorporates it into his V-Tol Dance Company's newest work, 32 feet per second per second. As a screen, he uses a makeshift curtain pulled across the stage. The show could have looked like a village hall screening in the Fifties, but doesn't. This is because the youthful Murphy is rather brave and clever: he balances film and performance, uses both to bowl the narrative along, and achieves a striking, coherent work in two media.

The piece starts with a dancer (James Hewison) suspended in the air like a parachutist in front of a film of a building. The images are speeded up and Hewison circles, legs and arms flying, to create the effect of someone free-falling down the facade. The makeshift screen is pulled across and a hand-held camera records members of the company arriving at 'Heartbreak Hotel'. They explore the corridor and rooms; a man and a woman become so excited they copulate, fully- clothed, in the corridor. It's safe sex - on screen and not too shocking. The screen is pulled back to reveal a hotel room. A man sleeps. A woman takes off her towel and gets into the shower. We see her bathing through the frosted glass.

As the piece builds, Hewison emerges as a David Koresh figure, a menacing leader who abuses the women and aggressively prevents them from being with the other two men, whom they prefer. The omnipotent Hewison is thwarted: not even he can force the women to want him. The film shows close-ups of the women's reactions, close-ups of Hewison reflecting on his plight. It

comprises rapidly edited images and dissolves - people frolicking on a bed; running backwards along corridors; faces, mouths. The effect, coupled with Murphy's physical, rough-and-tumble dance, is racy and hypnotic, a fully realised visual work.

Nigel Charnock also explores the mating game in Original Sin. The co-founder, with Lloyd Newson, of DV8 Dance Company, Charnock moves away from dance into drama. He takes a snapshot of sexual relations in the Nineties and what he sees is not a pretty picture. He is a sort of Everyman, Liz Brailsford an Everywoman. She rails against the inadequacies of men: 'The mommy's boys who just want to be friends.' Charnock meekly apologises. He's sorry for not being 'political enough, controversial enough, modern enough, post-modern enough'.

The dialogue is gritty, witty and often profound. The trouble is that he wants sex, she wants sex and romance. 'Your heaven is my hell,' he tells her. 'Foreplay shouldn't take three months.' They're different species, men and women. He's talking Trollope but thinking tits. They wonder if the answer is masturbation - 'where you have only yourself to thank'. He wants to go, she wants him to stay. They throw glasses of wine at each other. Finally, Charnock thrashes around naked in the spilt wine, a clammy reptile seeking rebirth. We can only hope. Original Sin never flags; it spits and sizzles, leaving no groan unturned.

Equally familiar is the war between the Capulets and Montagues. Darcey Bussell is pitched into the fray for the first time in the Royal Ballet's Romeo and Juliet. The irony with Romeo and Juliet is that

the older the ballerina, the more successful the reading. A great Juliet takes you inside her head so that you feel you are her. Together you hammer out solutions as time runs out. Bussell will be a great Juliet as she gets older. She is wonderful in the first act: radiant, innocent, everyone's glamorous daughter. So smitten is she after meeting the handsome Romeo that she positively brims with love. Each stolen glance is so expressive you want to weep. She carries this elation to the balcony scene, where she and Zoltan Solymosi as Romeo achieve clarity and purity.

Bussell is a flawless dancer with a breathtaking technique. Her performance grows as the plot requires her to rebel against her parents and to seek Friar Laurence's help. All this she does well, but I never quite felt that I got inside her head. I'm confident that will come with time.

'Romeo and Juliet', Royal Opera House, 071-240 1066, Fri & 18 Nov, then in repertory.