The Critics: Dance: The little bloke of calm

White Oak Dance Project Sadler's Wells, London Tripsichore Yoga Theatre Riverside Studios, London

'In dance," says Mikhail Baryshnikov, "the hardest things are the simplest: walking, standing still." It's the kind of statement you expect from a phenomenally gifted virtuoso. Baryshnikov, now 51, gave up princely ballet roles 10 years ago, and since then he's been trying to wean his public off the expectation of double tours and powerful leaps to settle for the quieter, more compact rewards of American modern dance. So, yes, walking and standing still, in principle, take on new significance. But who in a million years would think he'd want to prove that dictum to the letter? Come the first interval at Sadler's Wells, the fans were muttering about refunds.

For his only solo of the evening, Baryshnikov appeared in a long yellow samurai skirt in a piece of extended Japanese posturing that took minimalism almost to the limit. Dance with Three Drums and Flute, created for the dancer last year by the Kabuki artist Tomasuro Banda, begins with him taking little white-socked steps along a diagonal, his arms stuck out in front like scissors. Human yowls and drum bangs punctuate the silence as he changes direction, lifts a foot, turns his head slowly through 180 degrees, all with Zen-like concentration. Towards the end - it felt like hours - there are flurries of exertion in a few dagger-sharp warrior jumps and turns. But that was it: walking and standing still.

The trouble with White Oak Dance Project, named after the swanky Florida estate where Baryshnikov has studios, is that it's a star vehicle trying to pretend it isn't. The intended focus is the choreography. What the audience wants is Misha. But Misha, though lean and boyish still, has to pace himself, and the bulk of the Sadler's Wells programme was performed by others in the group - five fine American women well able to match the master in technique, if not celebrity.

All this is understandable, however grumpy it made the fans. What was less understandable was the choice of programme. What an opportunity to make new friends for post-modern dance! But no. Three out of the four works opened in gloomy silence. One was silent all the way through, and Trisha Brown's 1979 Glacial Decoy, though clean and serene, is hardly a piece to set the bar-room buzzing. Robert Rauschenberg's sepia photos of tractor tyres, radiator grilles etc blink along a row of screens. The dancers, wearing white pleated tents, perform opaque rituals half- on, half-off the stage, as if there were a line of them hidden in the wings.

Patience was rewarded, finally, in Mark Morris's The Argument - a series of marital "conversations" in the fallout from a row. Trust Morris to come up with the goods: glorious music (Schumann, played on stage), humour, narrative grist and bags of joyous, juicy steps. Here, at last, we saw Baryshnikov in full flow - a stunning stage presence and a dancer of huge range. He can do the light charm of Fred Astaire. He can come on meaty and strong, despite being shorter than his women. He can make you exquisitely aware of the slightest flexing of his middle finger. If he wants to take his public with him into more difficult dance terrain, maybe he just needs to come here more often.

The prospect of an evening of yoga on stage did not, I confess, fill me with eager anticipation. But Tripsichore's "Trips to Ecstasy" show, while falling some way short of its title, quickly scotched any fears about wholemeal types upending themselves like hibernating bats for an hour and a bit. Tripsichore is made up of sleek, beautiful people whose biographies read like a fanzine I'd like to subscribe to. Diana's favourite drink is "frozen vodka". Her words of wisdom: "Never fly Indian Airlines". The main thing to know about their "performance" is that they barely stop still for a second.

In the Desert Grace Suite, they enact a shadowy Indian myth about a raj and a goddess which gets them into positions an imaginative midwife might find useful. In Thoroughly Modern Coupling a woman in slithery silver appears to fly, suspended at the hips by a man's feet. Intricate yoga poses flow seamlessly, like joined-up writing 5,000 years old. The postures themselves possess qualities of harmony and bliss. String them together and the result is serenely absorbing.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine