Emanuel Gat Dance, Sadler's Wells, London

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The Independent Culture

I can see why Emanuel Gat has been picked for the Debut series at Sadler's Wells, a new venture that promotes rising artists. This Israeli-born choreographer has a growing profile, and on stage, his dancers have polish and assurance. But they also have material that's stretched far too thin.

Gat, who started dance training after military service, is the latest in a group of Israeli choreographers finding international success, including Ohad Naharin and Hofesh Shechter. Having founded his own company in 2004, Gat is now based in France.

Winter Voyage, the best-known work on this programme, is by far the strongest. It's a duet for men, set to songs from Schubert's Winterreise. Gat and Roy Assaf, in long shifts, move in unison on turn to dance together. There's something martial in the striding movements; steps are weighted and steady, with the skirts of those long tunics swinging as the men turn and lunge. Slow arm movements suggest t'ai chi. Hands curl into fists, elbows squared. Gat likes sequences of winding arm movements, elbows hooked round forearms. The music is essentially background; Gat doesn't respond to the songs' storytelling, or even to their rhythms. They're just there to provide some atmospheric melancholy.

Silent Ballet, a Sadler's Wells co-commission, looks like a series of choreographic exercises. One man stands at the footlights, back to the audience. Behind him, a line of dancers face us. They burst into solos: walking with knees lifted high, sitting down flat with one leg out, shaking torsos.

The random movement quickly sorts itself into patterns. Several dancers are working in unison, others in canon. The same basic movements keep cropping up. Having set this up, Gat has little more to add. There are a few more solos, a few new movement details, but nothing like enough to sustain the 35 minutes of the piece.

Through the centre, all of you, at the same time and don't stop is even more generic. It's danced to live recordings by Squarepusher, a mix of drum and bass and hellos to the crowd. Again, several solos go on at once. Dancers will take up a pose, arms elaborately crossed. Then, not disturbing the line of their arms, they sit and bend forward until their elbows rest on the stage. Those frozen arms give them the look of people carrying full dishes, trying to sit down without spilling anything.

Gat's eight dancers are forceful and committed. There is a confidence to this dancing, but not enough substance.

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