Still waters run deep

DANCE Stream Rambert Dance Apollo, Oxford
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Christopher Bruce calls his latest creation for Rambert Dance Company Stream. Many of us will, I suppose, identify it with the ever- rolling one to which life is likened in the hymn. The shape of the work - the end echoing its beginning - suggests a continuity into infinity, and the content (if I may use that word for dances that carry no specific plot) seems to confirm that impression.

The main part of Stream shows us two groups: four men and four women. The chaps first colonise the stage for themselves and fill it with tough, aggressive movement. But after the group of women has passed across the back of their territory, I sense a change of tone in what the men are doing; a slight jokiness in their blokiness, almost like moments in Bruce's Rolling Stones ballet Rooster.

Or is it just that, influenced by the feminine presence, we look at masculine display differently, more ironically? Either way, the men take themselves off and the women now occupy the stage. Whereas the men stuck out for individuality even when acting as a group, there is more togetherness in the women's dancing, a gentle sense of supporting each other. This remains true even when just two of them are left alone, and makes Sheron Wray's subsequent solo even more melancholic in its solitariness.

Then comes a complete contrast. Philip Chambon's music, hitherto jauntily rhythmic for the men, smoothly flowing for the women, suddenly sounds like a jolly Irish dance-hall, and both groups come together on stage, dividing up into couples for what quickly develops from socialising into the mating game. So we know that even if time is going to bear us all away, life will continue.

As prologue and epilogue, we see life in the form of two duets. Patricia Hines and Jan de Schynkel start the piece, their couplings sometimes taking strange forms: she reclining while her feet seize his neck, he soon after holding her cheeks from behind and rocking her head from side to side.

The final entry is for Didy Veldman and Paul Liburd: he very cocksure and dominant at first, slippery as a lizard, but soon maturing into a quieter steadiness, content to be an equal partner. And actually theirs is not quite the final entry, since the curtain falls on the opening couple repeating their arrival, the cycle resuming.

That's how I see it, anyway, but Bruce's programme note tells how the creative process began as abstract movement ideas inspired by fragments of sound that Chambon provided before development into a full electronic score of noises suggesting machinery, nature and instruments melded into real music. The creators, Bruce says, found their own ideas and feelings about the work, but he invites spectators to enjoy the movement for itself and to make their own interpretation. Sadly, we read, this proved beyond some spectators on Rambert's Russian tour, but an Oxford audience responded warmly this week.

On tour, reaching London for a week at the Peacock Theatre over Easter