And then, one thousand years of peace, Playhouse, Edinburgh
Helikopter/Eldorado (Sonntags/Abschled), Playhouse, Edinburgh

This apocalyptic Zumba class has thriller moments and it's visionary in its power and strangeness – while a Stockhausen double bill is stranger yet

The island of Patmos is apparently flush with hallucinogenic mushrooms, which may have contributed to the more lurid fancies of its most famous inhabitant, St John, author of the Bible's Book of Revelation. Certainly Angelin Preljocaj's And then, one thousand years of peace, which was inspired by John's vision of the Apocalypse, is one of those spectacles which sometimes makes you think it would be really amazing if you were stoned, and sometimes leaves you wondering if perhaps you are.

To a soundtrack by DJ Laurent Garnier, it offers swarms of mutated and evolved humanity, beginning with women in flesh-coloured costumes taking a sort of dystopian Zumba class that turns them into scrolling rows of alphanumeric code. The arrival of some sharp-dressed suitors drives them to shelter under clear plastic sheets, where they hunker like chrysalides in the first sign of a sci-fi insect-alien theme that colours much of the work.

The violence that pervades And then, one thousand years of peace – there are chains, bloodlettings, biting and a scene where the dancers are hooded, like hostages, in national flags – is mostly perpetrated by men, but there is always the suggestion that at some point the women might turn and lay eggs in the bodies of their astonished, ambushed partners. Even a couple who could be angels, gliding past to an excerpt from Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, have beetling thoracic bumps where their wings would be. Their serenity is a façade, and soon the placid rippling of the music is punctuated by the death-watch slap of their limbs against the stage.

This piece was originally made for dancers from both Ballet Preljocaj and the Bolshoi, then each company performed it independently. It would be fascinating to see how the Russians deal with these calculated inelegances. However, Preljocaj has a background in ballet, and combines a classicist's love of ranks and files with a modernist's disdain for prettifying them. At its best this produces severely mysterious close-formation manoeuvres, like an army drilled for a war against cliché; at its worst an MTV vacuity. The courtiers in his Snow White, seen recently at Sadler's Wells in London, could have stepped out of Adam Ant's "Prince Charming" video.

And then, one thousand years of peace has its "Thriller" moments (the flag-blinded hordes, initially a devastating image, lose their impact before they lose their livery) but they are submerged in an overwhelming flow of invention. From the fundamentalists who clamp books between their teeth so they protrude like the bills of cartoon birds, to the wandering lambs at the end, appropriately bemused symbols of innocence, this work is authentically visionary in its power and its strangeness.

Some things, though, are too strange for many, and it seems that putting the words "Karlheinz Stockhausen" and "double bill" on the same ticket is box-office poison, even at the Edinburgh Festival. This is the first time that Preljocaj has presented both his Stockhausen ballets in the same evening, and his daring alone deserved a bigger audience.

The composer was in full-on mad- scientist mode for Helikopter in 1995, later worked into Mittwoch. In both, the members of a string quartet play in separate helicopters above an auditorium, the resulting brutal mix of strings and rotors broadcast from speakers at ground level.

Preljocaj and lighting designer Patrick Riou rehumanise this Wagnerian conception by making every footfall – every bodily contact with the floor – generate ripples of light or shadow across the stage. So the dancers simulate, with their often doll-like movement, the effect of helicopter blades on grass or water, and evoke a fleeting fake arcadia from the aural wasteland of the score.

Both the music and the dance in Eldorado (Sonntags Abschied) are more self-consciously exalted. Twelve dancers stand against stone slabs, outlined in gold and with carved flowers making halos behind their heads. There is a casual kama sutra formality in the way they pair up and divide, and moments in the choreography are ravishing – a human temple built of spent and wilting bodies, or an encounter between two women that might almost be a grown-up version of the Puss in Boots duet from The Sleeping Beauty, with a hair-raising repertoire of scratching and grooming. But the erotic charge flickers in and out, and is not helped by the way that Stockhausen's synthesised choral oohs and ahhs can easily sound like a Teletubbies' birthday party.

Critic's Choice

The Edinburgh Festival ends with a little dark magic as St Petersburg's historic Mariinsky Ballet brings its nihilistic 21st-century Cinderella (created by ex-Bolshoi boss Alexei Ratmansky, music by Prokofiev) to the Alexei Ratmansky Edinburgh Playhouse (30 Aug-1 Sep)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week