Outside Edge: Dominic Cavendish shakes a leg at the Glastonbury Festival

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The Independent Culture
IF THE 80,000 or so crowd at this year's Glastonbury Festival had decided what theatre and circus acts to catch on the strength of the names in the programme, then the dance company Continental Breakfast wouldn't have stood a chance. On paper, competing with Fluffy Pink Bonanza, Stickleback Plasticus and another 90 similarly titled fringe performers, the most the company could have expected was the odd thumbs-up from a passing crusty on the way to a Transglobal Underground gig.

'I'm not worried about getting noticed,' insisted the New Zealand-born choreographer Lance Fuller, as he led his seven-strong team from their battered orange Volkswagen van past a mock funeral cortege to the group's pitch, opposite the main cabaret marquee, this time last week. When appearing at your first Glastonbury, it is often advisable to bring along some healthy scepticism. In the Glastonbury scheme of things, performing outside on grass puts you in roughly the same league as a veggie-burger salesman.

But when your scalp has been completely shaved except for four peroxide orange spikes, and your company has dyed their hair and donned Pierrot-style make-up, someone is bound to notice you. A short warm-up on the baking tarpaulin was sufficient to draw a small gathering who then sat, all fazed patience, while the young dancers struggled into Fuller's extraordinary crepe costumes.

The sight of eight people simultaneously straining and swaying together in a single-piece costume to melancholic techno in the opening piece Colourform prompted an almost knee-jerk interest from passers-by. As most of the dancing at the festival tended to be done by people in jeans, bobbing up and down and waving their hands in the air, the controlled, graceful movements were a revelation to many. Audience figures soared up to 600. 'It's brilliant - like an Art of Noise video,' eulogised one, as four of the company glided on in hoop- bottomed black-and-white costumes to a grinding industrial beat.

Fuller's preference for 'texture rather than narrative' made the work immediately accessible, but some puzzled over intended significance. 'It must mean something to someone,' suggested Tony from Coventry. 'You don't just go out, put on bright costumes and dance without it meaning something, do you?' Certainly Continental Breakfast wasn't doing it for the money. In return for three 30-minute performances, the company received pounds 100 in expenses, although it benefited incalculably from the infinitely superior flushable toilets in the performers' field.

The dancers departed on Sunday night, tired and contented. Unlike the big names, they had survived alongside the ordinary festival-goer; they had not been heckled; they had been asked to perform in Prague; there was even a rumour that they would get a stage if they returned to Glastonbury. But perhaps more importantly, the festival had suggested a means of funding the company: setting up a stall and flogging the costumes at Camden Market.

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