Glacier, Laban Centre, London
Sylvia, Royal Opera House, London

Global warming is a big subject. Sadly, writhing around the floor in engine oil, while briefly entertaining, is unlikely to help

You wait half an hour for the most arresting image in Maresa von Stockert's latest show, Glacier, and it's almost worth the wait: a pouting, Beyoncé-like strut for seven dancers in pristine white clothes, wielding large, glossy black oil cans. It's the girls that draw the eye, each hugging and caressing her can as if it were an £800 handbag and squeezing it lasciviously between bare thighs. At an invisible signal, each removes the cap and does a butt-wiggling walk, shouldering the can like a gun as thick dark gunge dribbles down her back and legs. Soon the floor is so slimy it's impossible to stand. Limbs flail and slide, bodies collapse and collide. Ah, yes, the petroleum-reliant world is losing its grip. We get the message.

There's a good reason why dance makers rarely engage with political issues: movement, even with words to help, is just too blunt an instrument. Some years back, Darshan Singh Bhuller had great success with a piece about the Bosnian war, but he cleverly hitched a ride on the Romeo and Juliet story. Global warming is a bigger, more nebulous topic. Yes, we should be worried about it. But all dance can do, on this evidence, is wring its hands and fret.

There are other images that stick – so to speak – and maybe that's a small triumph in itself. In a sequence about throwaway plastic, a dancer secretes empty drinks bottles in the sleeves of his jumper. Wrapping his double-length arms in knots, his solo not only evokes the struggles of a tar-damaged seabird, but a scuzzy Oxfam version of Martha Graham's famous jersey-dance in Lamentation.

Earlier, to the baroque strains of a Purcell aria about "everlasting snow", performers swivel slowly on shards of polystyrene on a shiny black floor, as if adrift on diminishing ice floes. Later, though, they're using them as Frisbees, and then surfboards, which is fast and a lot of fun, but seems irrelevant. The choreography, when it gets stuck into something more dance-like, is often ungainly, though there's a strong duet for two guys balancing on a too-small triangle of "ice".

Stockert and her designer Naomi Wilkinson have evidently looked hard at the possibilities of polystyrene sheeting – a substance which, we are reminded solemnly in the opening spiel, is "a material derived from petroleum, far more durable than us". Adrian Plaut's seductive lighting does indeed transform this cheap packaging into suggestions of a serene arctic world, a world that, under threat, is suddenly so precious.

Stockert has used text in previous work, and doesn't stint on it here. Though it's admirable of performers to be able to deliver lines while dancing, their strenuous efforts not to breathe too heavily into the radio mic often distract from what they are saying. The hard fact is that however slyly and sardonically you spin your ideas, the words "environmental change" make a plonking verbal trope.

A less pretentious dose of nonsense is offered by the Royal Ballet. Sylvia, the 1952 ballet by Frederick Ashton, is looking even emptier and sillier than it did when rescued from oblivion three years ago, now that curiosity is sated.

The plot, based on classical myth, tracks the amorous adventures of gods and their acolytes: a lovelorn shepherd who spends most of his time lying on the floor with an arrow in his chest, and an Amazonian who, in a tutu fashioned like a pair of swag curtains, romps about the Roman countryside chasing and shooting dinner. Ashton even writes a duet for a pair of goats. Too camp to be taken seriously, not quite camp enough to be funny, Sylvia is, frankly, a bore, albeit one stuffed with intricate steps intended as a challenge to Margot Fonteyn.

The high reputation of Delibes' thin, over-pretty music, what's more, is simply baffling. "If I had known this music before," wrote Tchaikovsky, "I would not have written Swan Lake." Thank goodness, then, that he didn't hear it till Swan Lake was in the bag.

'Glacier': touring until 11 April. Tour details: tilted.org.uk. 'Sylvia': ROH (020-7304 4000) in rep until 31 March

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
'I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.'

Is this the end of the Dowager Countess?tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Albert Hammond Junior of The Strokes performs at the Natural History Museum on July 6, 2006 in London, England.

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

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.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn