A passing glance at excitement

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Deborah Kolker's idea of passion is clearly not the same as mine. The section that she calls "Passion" in her show at the Barbican this week has a lot of running and falling, grabbing and slapping, even (almost like an afterthought) some kissing. The dancers do work mostly in pairs, but any emotion within or between them failed to reach me. This action takes place at the same time as a noisy soundtrack of pop love songs, but the movement does not seem to relate to the music; nor do these two elements have the separate completeness of the Cunningham/ Cage collaborations.

Deborah Kolker's idea of passion is clearly not the same as mine. The section that she calls "Passion" in her show at the Barbican this week has a lot of running and falling, grabbing and slapping, even (almost like an afterthought) some kissing. The dancers do work mostly in pairs, but any emotion within or between them failed to reach me. This action takes place at the same time as a noisy soundtrack of pop love songs, but the movement does not seem to relate to the music; nor do these two elements have the separate completeness of the Cunningham/ Cage collaborations.

Still, people around me showed every sign of enthusiasm, so I must just accept that this isn't my kind of show. Called Mix, it consists of snippets from Kolker's two earliest productions, Volcano and Velox, made in 1994 and 1995. Each of those includes robotic sections based on machines or mechanics; the problem there is the danger that one might feel "Monotony" would be a possible subtitle for both.

The costumes, incidentally, are mostly monotone, white and either black or navy blue, which again makes for a certain sameness. Surprising, that, since Kolker claims that her work is "like Brazil, with the mix of colours, the dynamics and rhythms". Actually, rather than displaying any obvious Brazilian quality, the movement all too often consists of the sideways jumping and heavy flat landings that some chauvinist British critics have named "Eurocrash".

Daring and athleticism are what Kolker's choreography most concentrates on, leading to a heavily muscled quality in her dancers. Supple they may be, but not very sinuous. One number that tries for more subtlety than the others - called "Fashion Show" - consequently has to rely heavily on facial expression along with simple, repetitive hand gestures.

Maybe Kolker is not so consistently reliant on gimmicks as could appear from the two productions she has brought to London. Last time here, she featured a giant wheel on which the dancers performed as the climax of Rota. This time, the highlight of the show is our old friend, climbing up the wall. Not exactly an unfamiliar trick, but one that they do well.

The wall in question has a profusion of handles spread all over it - 10 columns, each six grips high. These serve as hand-holds or foot-rests, and with their aid the performers move up, down and across. Starting simply enough, they gradually introduce more and more tricky manoeuvres, relying on one limb only, scampering, revolving, twisting, jumping or holding a colleague and passing her from one to another.

The skill involved is impressive, and it looks, at times, extremely risky, but the dancers go through it with smooth efficiency and every appearance of calm confidence, guaranteed to bring cheers and a standing ovation at the end.

Which leaves me muttering rebelliously, as I was made to do repeatedly all evening, that it's very clever, but does it really have much to do with dance?

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