Survivor, Barbican Theatre, London
Milagres, Old Blue Last, London

Choreographer Shechter and 'space doctor' Gormley insist that only music critics review their show. That left our man scratching his horns ...

It was Frank Zappa who argued that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture".

Heaven knows what the beardy old bugger would have made of a music journalist writing about dance, but the producers of Survivor, a new dance piece premiering at the Barbican, have requested that music critics, not dance critics, review their show.

Watch out what you wish for. My knowledge of contemporary dance is restricted to seething at the potential noise menace when the dustbin-clanging company Stomp! took over the hall behind my house to rehearse in. I'm the sort of person who, sent to see something called Survivor, will leave disappointed if they don't hear "Eye of the Tiger".

Survivor is a collaboration between Israeli-born Hofesh Shechter, choreographer-in-residence at the Brighton Dome, but also a composer, and Antony Gormley, the Turner Prize-winning British sculptor best known for the Angel of the North. It is Gormley who has created the "visual landscape" and who, in an interview clip linked to the Barbican's website, calls himself "a space doctor" without any visible smirk of self-awareness.

Call me an ignoramus, but, for me, the idea that dance can be "about" something is jarring, and my main fear is this: if Survivor is about something, will I be able to tell what it is? Deprived of a lyric sheet and a working mental map of the medium, I'm all at sea.

The blurb tells me Survivor is "about seeds of feeling, the search for continuity and the deconstruction of spectacle", but in practice I get nothing more coherent than a vague "Totalitarianism is bad, OK?".

Gormley's "visual landscape" consists of a giant reflective edifice which serves as the safety curtain, some window cleaner's ladders leading to suspended platforms, and a number of trap doors through which people occasionally spring up in a manner reminiscent of, but not as cool as, Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". Oh, and a bathtub.

The show begins with a man in white, standing permanently with his back to us in the style of Magritte's La Reproduction Interdite, a recurring motif.

There's plenty of getting-into-the-groove kind of dancing, film loops of starlings, waterfalls, demolitions and tracer fire, and tired old breaking-the-fourth-wall gimmicks such as harassing the audience with night-vision cameras, and singers popping up in the middle of the stalls. At one point, for pity's sake, someone wheels on a shopping trolley. Come back, Stomp!, all is forgiven.

And the music? Broadly pseudo-classical meets non-specific Middle Eastern, with lots of martial drumming, repetitive chanting, incidental cellos and the odd bit of beatboxing and a giant gong. At one point the orchestra break into the national anthem, but Hendrix/Pistols/Gainsbourg it ain't.

The best moment comes when some bowling balls are dropped from a great height. The worst is when a godawful singer-songwriter type turns up with an acoustic guitar for some sub-Radiohead whining: "We live in the wind/Our eyes made of stones/ Paper transactions/We are what we are/My mind is my mind ..."

I start to realise that my dance-ignorance doesn't matter. I consider myself a fairly intelligent guy, and if I'm not getting the point of Survivor, the failure isn't mine. It was nice of Hofesh and Antony to invite us dirty rock'n'rollers into their world, but I won't be rushing back. In the low arts, where pseudery is toughly policed, you have to justify your every move. In the high arts, where intellectual insecurity dissuades the timid from speaking out, anything goes.

I'm a sucker for the twinkle. Anything involving xylophones, glockenspiels and the high notes on a piano gets fast-tracked through my defences, to the extent that I even have a soft spot for "Dancing in the Moonlight" by Toploader (I'd describe it as a guilty pleasure if I didn't loathe the very idea of guilty pleasures). And there are few bands who twinkle more than Milagres.

The Brooklyn quintet, named after a town in Brazil and previously known as The Secret Life of Sofia, are nothing much to look at: five standard-issue guys from indie-band central casting, in checked shirts and facial hair. But the sound of their debut album Glowing Mouth is turning heads with its shimmer and sparkle.

The shuddering pianos of "Here to Stay" are reminiscent of Arcade Fire at their best, and lead singer Kyle Wilson, owner of a falsetto which has been compared to Wild Beasts, is no mean wordsmith, adept at finding romance in unlikely places. Glowing Mouth's title track seems to reference the Andean plane crash: "You and me under sheets of white/The blue light glow of a star on ice/ Freezing to death among isolated peaks/Cutting pieces of flesh because we all need to eat ..."

It's delivered tonight with a suitably blue-lit intensity. When Wilson isn't playing his guitar, he hugs it like a lover. It shouldn't be long before the world is doing that to Milagres.

Next Week:

Simon Price goes Skying with The Horrors

Pop Choice

With the wild praise for the recent double album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming ringing in their ears, French electro-shoe-gazers M83 play Trinity, Bristol (Tue); The Ritz, Manchester (Wed); The Arches, Glasgow (Thu); Stylus, Leeds (Fri); HMV Institute, Birmingham (Sat). Everything Everything warm up for the Snow Patrol tour with shows at The Globe, Cardiff (Tue) and The Sugarmill, Stoke (Wed).

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Creep show: Tim Cockerill in ‘Spider House’

TVEnough to make ardent arachnophobes think twice

Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tvThe Apprentice contestants take a battering from the business mogul
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Jewel in the crown: drawings from ‘The Letter for the King’, an adventure about a boy and his mission to save a medieval realm
Arts and Entertainment
Juergen Wolf won the Young Masters Art Prize 2014 with his mixed media painting on wood, 'Untitled'
Arts and Entertainment
Iron Man and Captain America in a scene from
filmThe upcoming 'Black Panther' film will feature a solo black male lead, while a female superhero will take centre stage in 'Captain Marvel'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Imperial War Museum, pictured, has campaigned to display copyrighted works during the First World War centenary
Arts and Entertainment
American Horror Story veteran Sarah Paulson plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette Tattler
tvReview: Yes, it’s depraved for the most part but strangely enough it has heart to it
Arts and Entertainment
The mind behind Game of Thrones George R. R. Martin

Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Dorothy in Return to Oz

film Unintentionally terrifying children's movies to get you howling (in fear, tears or laughter)
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Robert James-Collier as under-butler Thomas

TVLady Edith and Thomas show sad signs of the time
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The Dad's Army cast hit the big screen

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning?
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain