Dance: Those little ones really have to be watched

Jeremy James & Co

The Place, London

The Smallest Room

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea

The choice of choreographer Jeremy James to open the Spring Loaded season of new British dance raised eyebrows among some of my dance-critic colleagues. There are surely bigger names on the roster - like Phoenix and Random and the Richard Alston group, the sort of outfits that reliably fill the South Bank halls. Why lead the shoal with a minnow when you could have led with a whale?

You had only to look at Tuesday's audience for the answer. Dancers, scores of them. Jeremy James is an in-house secret, a specialists' specialist, the one they want to watch. Over the past 15 years, James himself has been a player in most of the A-teams. He started out classical, dancing what he calls "all the midget roles in ballet", then moved on to Rambert, Siobhan Davies, DV8. But now he's struck out on his own, and his style resembles nothing and no one. It's intricate and polished, yet it wears its craft so lightly that it wouldn't look amiss in a night club.

At The Place, he showed a triple bill whose titles left lots to the imagination. Juice is a trio for three women which starts in silence with a solo for Tammy Arjona, a tiny darting figure whose knee and hip joints seem to be attached differently from most people's. Arms behave like legs, walking the floor, or flung out like a shot-putter's; hips swing, swivel, and lurch out of true. More figures appear, their body parts weighted and heavy: heads loll on necks, joints cave in, gravity tugs. Yet much of this happens at bone-snapping speed.

What elevates it to dance rather than anatomical meltdown is the complex rhythmic groove James sets up within these moves, defying the need for any musical soundtrack. That's supplied in the spectator's head until finally a blast of heavy rock kicks in. By contrast Parts, James's new piece, enlists the composer Matteo Fargion and an abstract film to drive the dance along. But again, what starts simple builds to an impressive counterpoint, superbly controlled. Fargion's childish two-note motif grows into mad boogie-woogie, and bodies which at first swivel and tilt as if suspended by a single wire are soon toppling against each other, flexing themselves against the floor, or swinging like the clapper in a bell. The only trouble is, with performance as intricate and demanding as this, you really need to see it twice: once to get the measure of it, then immediately again to revel in its cleverness. I wonder if the Spring Loaded season would consider giving that a go?

The bathroom is a private place, better equipped for singing in than dancing, but The Smallest Room, a touring show adapted from a one-off Brighton Festival event, takes place on a stage set with two plumbed-in bathtubs and a giant freestanding shower. Exploring ideas of privacy and display, two brave and articulate dancers - Becky Edmunds and Charlie Morrissey - explore the full range of preening and cleansing rituals. Each begins naked in the tub, where their splashings and scrubbings combine with Barnaby O'Rorke's improvised cello (played, tongue in cheek I guess, as he perches on the edge of the bath in a towelling robe) by way of orchestration.

You might think hair-washing, toe-nail picking and drying-off gestures would make a meagre dance vocabulary, but in fact the longueurs in the piece occurred when the dancers strayed into neutral dance territory or forced dialogue. Soapside, the story was gripping. There was a nifty duet which looked like a speeded-up study of conjugal habits (who gets to sit by the taps? who keeps getting out and fiddling about and getting back in again? you got it, she does); and there were two fast and funny solos made up of all those things you do in front of mirrors when you think no one else is looking. Best of all there was a spectacular dervish routine under the giant shower, lit by glancing blue halogen beams, whirling a wide halo of spray like a rainbow. In all, a curiously cleansing experience.

: Winchester King Alfred's (01962 827 492), Tues; New Milton Forest Arts Centre (01425 612 393), Thurs. 'The Smallest Room': Manchester Green Room (0161 950 5900), Fri & Sat.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam