Dance: Nederlands Dans Theater, Playhouse, Edinburgh<img src="http://www.independent.co.uk/template/ver/gfx/twostar.gif"></img >

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The Independent Culture

Dropping things on audiences is popular. Sh-boom, choreographed for Nederlands Dans Theater by Paul Lightfoot and Sol León, ends with a scatter of paper over the stage and the auditorium. It's the sweetest touch in this hyperactive dance.

Nederlands Dans Theater have built up a loyal Scottish audience, with regular visits from the main company and NDTs 2 and 3. Company identity was shaped by the choreographer Jiøí Kylián, who directed NDT from 1975 until 2000. Lightfoot and León, a husband-and-wife choreography team, are generally seen as Kylián's creative successors. This programme introduces their work.

The Kylián influence is there in the same glib phrases: flipped hands, squatting pliés. Suited men hunch forwards as they raise their arms, women extend their legs mid-lift. The dancing has a slippery ease. NDT's performers put a gloss on every step, without giving weight to their movements.

Silent Screen, danced to the nagging rhythms of Philip Glass, surrounds its dancers with filmed images. The curtain goes up on a seascape, with three people in silhouette. Until they moved, I didn't guess that only two were on stage: the other man is on film.

The image changes, showing a forest, a child, a sliding tunnel. Flapping curtains replace the screen, and a woman climbs up from the orchestra pit, her skirt long enough to fill the stage. Having created that image, Lightfoot and León don't build on it: the woman just goes away again.

Sh-boom is danced to songs from the Thirties and Forties. Faces are pulled, crotches grabbed, skirts flapped. The best image is again a matter of stagecraft. Four women shine torches on a fleeing man, naked but for a copper saucepan.

There's more mugging in Shutters Shut. Lightfoot/ León give two dancers a specific gesture for each word of a Gertrude Stein poem. The clown faces and delivery actually distract from the rhythms of Stein's language. In Signing Off, Lightfoot and León frame the dance with screens, soloists vanishing behind fabric, reappearing or changing places.

This was the last dance at Brian McMaster's last Edinburgh Festival. Under his direction, the Festival took dance seriously. His first five years now look cornucopian: Mark Morris, Merce Cunningham, lots of Balanchine. Recent years have been less certain, with too many small-scale, intellectualising performances. But McMaster, in his Festival years, has helped to make Edinburgh an important place for dancing.

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