Doug Elkins Dance Company, Peacock Theatre London

Just good old-fashioned entertainment...
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The Independent Culture

What's new, Pussycat? What was new last night was this show by Doug Elkins, set to classic love songs from the Sixties by Burt Bacharach, with a little help from Daniel Johnston's later, more troubled numbers.

And if you think that sounds a bit old-fashioned, you should have heard the warmth with which a largely young audience greeted it.

The idea could not be simpler. Just take a series of these great recordings and let half a dozen lively, good-looking dancers perform to them. Nothing elaborate or pretentious, just good old entertainment.

Elkins began his career as what we used to call a breakdancer – we are now told the expression should have been B-Boy. Well, however you describe it, I seem to remember that in days of old he used to spend much of his time on stage head downwards. There's not much of that any more, although in her attractive solo Charemaine Seet was given just a hint of it, for old times' sake.

Otherwise, as you might guess in this context, the dancers spend most of their time duetting. And even when a song advises them to "Walk on By", they never do anything so pedestrian as merely walking. Instead, they strut around nonchalantly, with swaggering shoulders and jaunty feet, and all their movements are smooth and easy.

The production began life a couple of years ago in New York's Dance Theatre Workshop, which I had always supposed to be far too earnest a place for something so light-hearted; how wrong can you be?

These are the first performances of an expanded version, to which Elkins gives a new title taken from one of the songs, The Look of Love. Want to know what that look is? The designer has decided that it is mostly daisies or other blossoms projected on to a coloured backcloth. Presumably it's sheer coincidence that said designer's name is Roma Flowers.

My only complaint would be that Richard Cohen's costume designs in the first half are rather sombre. They acquire more welcome, brighter colours after the intermission, and at about that point, the dances take on a generally brisker quality, too.

Don't imagine that its being about love makes the evening sentimental. Elkins says that he took inspiration from youthful memories of spying on his parents' parties – in which case his folks must have enjoyed some lively parties.

So who enjoyed the show? Let me borrow from Bacharach, too, and suggest that it was perfect for anyone who had a heart.

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