Dutch National Ballet, Sadler's Wells, London
Yippeee!!, Sadler's Wells, London
Dance Umbrella, Sadler's Wells, London

Every national ballet company wants to look distinctive, and for those with a long history that's not hard to achieve. Any muggins could spot the difference between, say, the Kirov and the Royal Danish, were they ever to perform side by side. But where does that leave Dutch National Ballet, whose existence dates only to 1961 and whose membership spans 27 nationalities?

It leaves them looking very good indeed, because what it lacks in native accent it makes up in technical strength. What's more, picking dance-athletes it really wants from around the world rather than native graduates it might feel obliged to accept has resulted in a predominantly tall, broad-shouldered squad whose look couldn't be more cohesive if their ancestors had all been models for Van Dijk.

For this London visit - the first in five years - director Ted Brandsen brought works from the last four decades that hold their Dutchness up to the light. Rudi van Dantzig's Four Last Songs, set to Richard Strauss, is typical of Seventies ballet abstraction in presenting a headily impassioned world where nothing very obviously happens but it's a matter of life or death. A soloist billed as Angel gives a clue, and the magnificently saturnine Rubinald Rofino Pronk leaves no doubt that his embrace is the kind you don't wake up from. Four couples in turn respond to the shadings of the rich orchestral writing (the Royal Ballet Sinfonia on fine form, and American soprano Camellia Johnson stupendous) and eventually link arms with death in a comfortable gesture of acceptance.

Fine music-making also dominated the evening's premiere, the strongly classical Suite For Two by Krzysztof Pastor, one of the company's two home-grown choreographers. Cellist Quirine Viersen battled a dry acoustic to give a resounding account of Bach's second suite while the dancing pair sweetly, sometimes mischievously, acknowledged her presence on stage.

Hans Van Manen, now 73 and still prolific, is the company's real crown jewel, and his 2005 Frank Bridge Variations, set to the darkly exuberant Britten score, formed the backbone of the programme, showing dancer after splendid dancer's strength and form. With her cool presence, articulate torso and lean, long line, Igone de Jongh suggested a dancer in the Guillem mould.

But the real technical stretch was William Forsythe's 1991 The Second Detail, as a cast of 13 high-kicked and spun and pummelled their bodies in obedience to the clanging force of a Thom Willems score. There can be a nihilism about Forsythe at his most punishing. But this time the dancers were on top.

With a title like Yippeee!! there ought to be some fun to be had in the latest spectacle from Lea Anderson, veteran survivor of the late-Eighties' taste for kitsch. It turns out to be an over-long, over-wrought, rather academic, if undeniably kinky take on Busby Berkeley chorus routines of the 1930s. Anderson is hooked on cyclical patterns and multiples, and merges her interest in period song-and-dance films with scientific notions about viral infection and cloning. It's a fascinating idea on paper, but its exposition is tiresomely obscure. Not that there isn't plenty to look at. Women have beards, men wear heels. The live-generated electronic music by Steve Blake and his band is unremittingly ugly.

Thankfully that was not the sign-off of this year's Dance Umbrella, the 28-year-old annual festival that introduced contemporary dance to Britain. The final item was a gala dedicated to Val Bourne, its retiring founder-director. Such has been Bourne's longevity and reach that even a cursory scan of the audience revealed many more stars than were billed to perform. One or two acts were mystifying: a duet by Mark Morris for two men skipping in smocks left me unsure whether I was meant to laugh. But a Kim Brandstrup duet was darkly engrossing, a solo for extended thumbs by Trisha Brown was a minimalist delight, and a student skit by a 17-year-old Aletta Collins to Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" was both clever and funny. Martha Graham (aka New Yorker Richard Move) was the glamorous compere.

jenny.gilbert@independent.co.uk

* 'Yippeee!!', Brighton Dome (01273 709709), Thur to Sat; Cambridge Arts Theatre (01223 503333), 24 & 25 Nov

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Stinson Hunter and his associates Stubbs and Grime in Channel 4 documentary The Paedophile Hunter

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
This Banksy mural in Clacton has been removed by the council
art
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?