Dance The Stop Quartet Playhouse, Newcastle

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The Independent Culture
Two men, dressed in loose trousers and T-shirts, walk on stage. Immediately, they slip into a mysterious ritual of locomotor and gestural action. The taller man, Henry Montes, shifts compulsively back and forth, his fastidious, jittery steps contrasting with the wide, spastic leg movements of the other man, Jonathan Burrows. In this opening sequence of Burrows's new work, The Stop Quartet - which was given its British premiere during this year's Northern Electric Dance festival in Newcastle - the choreographer's particularist, sectarian tendencies are put to their finest use to date. The Stop Quartet is a pristine collection of movement studies in which obsession, tension and instability are cause and effect factors.

Organised as a series of episodic encounters between two, three and, finally, four dancers, it is a grippingly incomprehensible, yet also revelational work. It is dance as primordial language, honed to futuristic perfection. At the end you are left no wiser as to the impulses behind Montes's and Burrows's synchronised striding, or Fin Walker's nodding bows, or Kate Gowar's sudden entry into the choreography's final, prohibitive enclosures. And yet there is no denying the clarity of purpose with which the dancers proceed, or the superb precision of their every physical action.While initially Burrows and Montes are like disabled men engaged in their own self-styled physiotherapy in order to walk, Walker's arrival prompts the next phase in their progress and autonomy succumbs to interdependency as the trio moves with almost telekinetic compunction across the stage.

The soundtrack, by Kevin Volans and Matteo Fargion, occupies a separate but related void. As a trickle of piano notes gives way to the increasing volume of an electrical hiss and a sound of footsteps on gravel, the dancers toss away movements as though they were mere inconsequences. Conversely, Michael Hulls's lighting designs, a floorspace delineated by white rectangles set in perpendicular arrangements, creates the boundaries that serve to contain and periodically arrest the dance. Within this arena, the performers seem to purge their bodies of accumulated malpractice.

n At the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (0114 2769922) 6 June