Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Sadler's Wells, London

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The Independent Culture

In bODY_rEMIX/gOLDBERG_ vARIATIONS, choreographer Marie Chouinard hobbles her dancers. The work opens with her company wearing one pointe shoe each. Over the course of the evening, Chouinard trusses them up with harnesses, crutches and Zimmer frames. The aim is to extend the body, but Chouinard ends up limiting it.

Chouinard starts with Bach's keyboard work. The soundtrack is Glenn Gould's recording of the Goldbergs, remixed and distorted by composer Louis Dufort, plus a Gould interview, similarly treated. As Gould discusses pace and pulse, his voice is slowed down until the words are only just recognisable. The piano playing is slowed and twisted. Dancers pant or wail over the top of it all.

While Dufort reshapes Bach and Gould, Chouinard gets on with reworking her dancers' bodies. After the opening, with each person stamping their one pointe shoe in a different rhythm, Chouinard varies the props.

Her dancers scramble on their knees, upper bodies resting on shortened crutches. Some have further supports strapped to their bodies, metal poles tied on at forehead or waist. One man wears a strut strapped to his groin, thrusting phallically at a metal frame. A woman staggers along with a microphone in her mouth, humming and gasping. Liz Vandal dresses the dancers in flesh-coloured knickers. Bare-breasted women wear white stickers over their nipples.

Chouinard's strapped-up performers push themselves along, crouched inside Zimmer frames or sliding on chair supports. A couple in harnesses swing and cling together. There's a lot of pelvic thrusting.

Dancers wander across the stage in a large group, each person bent double. They wear pointe shoes on their hands as well as their feet, all four pointes clopping. They look like a herd of eccentric beasts. One woman crawls over a five-barred frame, clinging to each bar in turn. She might be the notes on a music stave, wriggling into different arrangements. Chouinard fails to develop her images. Once she has the woman tangled in the frame, she just goes on tangling. It's the same with the props.

In another scene for one-shoed dancers, they squeal each time they put their weight on the ballet-slippered foot. They sound pained or distracted. I can sympathise.