Ecstasy of motion

DANCE NDT2 Peacock Theatre, London
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The Independent Culture
There was a man begging outside the Peacock Theatre on Thursday night; he wanted a ticket for NDT2 whose three London dates had completely sold out.

The five works on offer this week were, on the whole, a more satisfying selection than the programme they brought to Sadler's Wells in 1995. The evening opened with Kylian's Songs of a Wayfarer, inspired by the Mahler song-cycle. Bejart used this music to represent the journey through life but Kylian chooses instead to chart the passage of human relationships. The choreography is packed with unexpected lifts and supported leaps and it is exquisitely danced. Lucila Alves in the opening pas de deux has arms that undulate like a flame, with a speed and a soft brilliance that seem to leave a trace in the air behind her.

The second work is Solo, a fizzy six-minute dance by Hans Van Manen for three boys set to Bach's Violin Suite No 1 in D. Van Manen has fun juxtaposing funky shrugs and struts with more classical virtuosity but, by confining the wit to movements of the body rather than the face, he manages to tickle the audience without vulgarising the light humour. He is helped here by well-judged performances from Vaclav Kunes, Patrick Marin and Fabrice Mazliah.

Sammanfall, by former Royal Swedish Ballet soloist Johan Inger, is a piece for seven dancers and occurs on a set dominated by a large green eyeball which plays pee-po through a hole in the corner of the backcloth. This is obviously supposed to Mean Something. The programme note says something about a sense of isolation, and interval gossip suggests it's something about a broken relationship lived out in the public gaze, but all it really means is that the audience giggles quite a bit each time the eye rolls comically from side to side. Duets and trios flow into one another in dances that are constructed like an elaborate game in which each movement must slot into the next without hesitation or deviation. Repetition is allowed.

Hans Van Manen takes the helm for the penultimate piece, a moving and inventive duet for Shirley Esseboom and Vaclav Kunes. The finale is Skew Whiff by the British NDT dancer Paul Lightfoot, in which three men and four women in an ill-advised shade of German mustard leap, twitch and do silly walks to Rossini's overture to The Thieving Magpie, brought to life by dancers who dash off double tours en l'air almost faster than the eye can catch.

Although a few "older" dancers have been kept on until a place becomes vacant for them in the main outfit, the bulk of NDT2's dancers are between 17 and 22 years old. This means that everything the company does is characterised by the gorgeous mercurial fluency of young bodies in an ecstasy of motion who lend the choreography a freshness and radiance it doesn't always possess.

It is this, not the material, that makes people beg for tickets.

Tonight at Peacock Theatre, London WC2 (0171-314 8800); Mon-Wed, Theatre Royal Brighton (01273 328488); then touring to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Canterbury, Sheffield, High Wycombe and Blackpool

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