Dane: Cast No Shadow, Sadler's Wells, London<!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Cast No Shadow, the new collaboration between the choreographer Russell Maliphant and film-maker Isaac Julien, has extreme accomplishment but little substance. Filmed images glow, dancers pour themselves into flowing moves. Not much happens.

The programme, which opened this year's Dance Umbrella festival of contemporary dance, is full of overlapping images. True North and Small Boats put dancers before and behind film screens, mixing movement, shadow and projection. Julien's Fantôme Afrique, which has no live dancing, is shown on three screens, often showing the same scene from several angles. Repeated juxtapositions look heavily meaningful.

The three films, made with the cinematographer Nina Kellgren, are in sumptuous colour. Though True North shows polar wilderness, it still has green waterfalls, ice glinting against blue skies, skin tones against snow. Sometimes live and filmed action blur: is that silhouette on screen, or a dancer crossing the stage?

The trouble is that, having set all this up, Julien and Maliphant have nowhere to take it. As the images flicker past, the dancers coil and stretch through a very limited range of moves. Maliphant's steps are capoeira-influenced, full of crouching turns, smoothed-out phrases.

Even doing backflips, the dancers suggest Zen-like calm. Their poise is admirable, with Alexander Varona outstandingly fluent. It didn't stop me longing for some contrast. Maliphant has an endless stream of supple steps, with little to distinguish one from the next.

It's the same on screen. Julien's photography can be beautiful, but there's such a lot of it. Vanessa Myrie stalks through film and live action. She's a statuesque presence, but she never actually does anything.

If True North ran out of steam, Small Boats seemed interminable. A single screen shows beached rowing boats, Italian beaches and ancient monuments. Julien's camera lingers over chandeliers, films dancers rolling down grand staircases. Colours are bright but oddly faded. Behind the film, dancers swing from rigging, float through tangled lifts and groups.

This time, Julien and Maliphant try to vary the pace. The rigging is rearranged, the film cuts from palace to beach. There's still no contrast: it's more of the same, more glossy pictures and featureless steps.

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