Ballet National de Marseille Dome, Brighton

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The Independent Culture

The Ballet National de Marseille, returned to open this year's Brighton Festival. Flamand uses Brazilian designers Humberto and Fernando Campana to give this show its distinctive look.

Their set is dominated by circles. Video projections appear on a round screen. Phaeton's sun chariot is a hoop trailing sheets of clear plastic. Arachnae's web is another ring, criss-crossed with webbing. When nobody's dancing around or through them, the circles hang there, looking ill-assorted. The lack of focus might be a result of the Campana brothers' inexperience as stage designers. But it matches an aimlessness in Flamand's production.

Drawing on Ovid's poem, Flamand chooses nine changes, starting with people emerging from stones and ending with Medea's rejuvenating spells. The production doesn't tell these as stories. You can guess at identities from the more explicit props, but the dancers aren't strongly characterised. The music, a patchwork of styles from Saint-Saëns to electric crackles, does little to support narrative, but Flamand is more interested in themes than in narrative.

Flamand's strongest choreography is in a series of duets that become trios. As a couple dance, a third waits crouching at their feet, suddenly joining in some complex partnering. I'm still not sure which theme or story Flamand was illustrating, but at last we saw one kind of dancing turning into another.

Brighton Festival continues to 25 May. www.brightonfestival.org

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