Black Tuesday, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

The general assumption that the capital gets the best of everything in the arts doesn't altogether hold water. Twice recently, for instance, I have seen touring dance companies perform works on the road that were omitted from their Sadler's Wells seasons but proved superior to some that were shown in London.

One of them, Paul Taylor's Black Tuesday, had only a single showing in Britain, at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre. Luckily this was filmed by the BBC, who had specially requested the piece, so there will be further opportunity to catch it. Do so if you can, because it is an example of the best living choreographer at the top of his form.

It is set to what Taylor succinctly defines as "Songs from the Great Depression", and the action marvellously evokes the look and the spirit of that period. Don't assume in consequence that the mood is all gloomy. Taylor catches a dogged resilience in numbers such as the duet for two ragged men to "Underneath the Arches", and a tough sexiness in Silvia Nevjinsky's role to "Sittin' on a Rubbish Can". Lisa Viola's solo to "I Went Hunting and the Big Bad Wolf Was Dead" goes further, pulling the whole cast into exuberant comedy.

But Santo Loquasto's costumes, coupled with the railway arches that strikingly dominate his set, join with the choreography in ensuring that you never forget the underlying problems of the 1930s, as remembered from films and books. Moreover, dances including Annmaria Mazzini's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams", or the final "Brother Can You Spare A Dime?" led by Patrick Corbin, are powerfully direct in their emotion.

Lucky Edinburgh to have experienced this production live, on an enthusiastically received bill with other fine examples of Taylor's varied range, from the stylishly comic Offenbach Overtures to the intensity of Promethean Fire, making an even better programme than the ones we saw in London.

In the case of Nederlands Dans Theater 2, I have already indicated that I find much of the company's present repertoire disappointing, but the prospect of an unfamiliar work by Johan Inger drew me to see them again in High Wycombe, and happily it made the journey worthwhile. Inger, a Swede who next month becomes the director of the Cullberg Ballet, has a gift for creating unusual dances that establish a strong, unexpected atmosphere of their own.

In this latest example, Out of Breath, he disposes three women and three men in varied manoeuvres around a ribbed, sloping structure, its position and angle changed at intervals during the action. The cast moves in and out of it, jump or clamber over its walls, ascend or descend, appear and disappear.

At times, randomly it seems, one of the dancers will try to establish a relationship with another, or dodge to avoid this. Stillness or swift motion succeed each other; confrontations happen out of the blue; a sequence of beautiful movement interrupts eccentric entries.

The outcome is reinforced by Mylla Ek's handsome although also eccentric designs, and by an accompaniment ranging from Hungarian violin music to part of Jacob ter Veldhuis's Third String Quartet. Inger makes his dancers look relaxed but absolutely involved: it's a cut above anything else from this company recently.

NDT2 tours to 18 June

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