Ballet Theatre Munich, Corn Exchange, Brighton

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The Independent Culture

Ballet Theatre Munich may be small, but it is the antithesis of the choreographer-led company that has such dominance here. On the contrary, its director Philip Taylor makes it part of his credo that his should not be the only choreographic voice.

As a result, the company's second programme for the Brighton Festival contained pieces by four other choreographers besides Taylor. The shortest item - Jane Dudley's Harmonica Breakdown - was the only familiar one. A powerful solo, it encapsulates in four minutes a life of suffering and resilience, performed with emotional clarity by the company's Christine Bombosch.

The rest was new to us. At one end, in the category of plain unappealing, was Dylan Newcomb's emotional and tense Passing, another solo, set to the American choreographer's own music. Pleasantly constructed was Plenilunio by Cayetano Soto from Spain, a long dancerly piece to music by Alberto Iglesias Cautiva. Soto has a gift for beautiful arresting shapes and deftly interesting entrances and exits. His intention to reflect moon-phases doesn't really come off, but the six performers brought poise and precision.

Best of the rest was Torn Stone and Hiccup by Jennifer Hanna, using music by Kevin Volans and Michael Nyman. An American now working in Amsterdam, her style bears marks of her stint under Mats Ek at the Cullberg Ballet. She shares with him a faux-naïve movement language and a riveting theatricality. The three female dancers are a coven of witches or rustic Graces, their limbs scribbling in space as they dance in a tight circle. Three male dancers are relegated to the sidelines: they are assistants who slither on as quickly and unobtrusively as possible to adjust the women's body positions; or they are human zephyrs who blow gusts of air from the wings.

The women begin to resemble horizontal whirling dervishes as, lying supine, they spin round and round. But then they get up and from their tubular felt hats spill sprays of glitter dust, arcing in space like wind-driven rain. It may be puzzling, but it is very pretty. And by the end, even though the overall message remains elusive, you don't care, because what you've been watching was absorbing and different.

More conventional was Taylor's Junction, its vitality determined by the composer Graham Fitkin's Piano Circus (Log). Three couples slide on and off like adolescents recklessly rushing on the icy ground of a winter's day, on their way to somewhere else. Gathered together, they are distinctive individuals, before settling back into ordered ensemble dancing for pairs.

Contrasting with this vitamin- packed zip, Christine Bombosch stands motionless, her back to the audience, or left alone she performs meditative solos. She is the still point, the mature dancer who contains inside her the junction of past and present, while all around her the junctions are external and bursting with blithe energy.