Henri Oguike, Stratford Circus, London

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The Independent Culture

Henri Oguike is a comparative newcomer to the dance scene but is fast making a name. His programme for 2001 is an unusually long one among contemporary dance companies, with a gratifying variety of moods, and two of its four works are notably good.

One of these is A Moment of Give, a dance for four women to Shostakovich's Piano Trio No 2, played live on stage for its performances at east London's welcoming new studio theatre, Stratford Circus (right next to the familiar old Theatre Royal).

Oguike achieves the originality and sustained interest of the choreography through a modest choice of steps: runs, walks, little jumps, a thrust of weight to right or left, an upward push of the arms.

What gives the work its attraction is the way these movements change and respond, in pace and feeling, to Shostakovich's music; the frequent use of stasis as well as motion; and the implications which the dancing conveys of a relationship among the characters, a sadness at first which they largely overcome although the end is again sombre.

A black mark, though, on this occasion for letting a photographer with a noisy camera buzz away all through it from a stage box; with music so good and so important, that was unforgivably distracting.

The music is crucial again in Melancholy Thoughts, which happily is not at all melancholy but a brisk, full-blooded treatment of four numbers from Astor Piazzolla's Histoire du Tango for violin and guitar (the ballet's title is taken from a teasing comment by the composer).

With a cast of six jumping up straight into action at the first note of music, the dances consist mostly of duets, naturally enough, sometimes echoing the tango's historical match of one man with another, but also neatly putting a sly momentary sexual gloss on one woman's approach to another.

A short number for two dancers, musician (Pedro Carneiro on marimba) and lighting designer (Guy Hoare), Shot Flow, is ingenious but I found it tiresome – and not very original – in its fragmentation, its negligible movement and its display often of just one limb on a dark stage. I suppose in gratitude for the rest of his programme we must put up with this as providing Oguike's only personal appearance of the evening, to show that he can jiggle his hands and bend a knee.

In Ile Aye, to five popular songs from Brazil by Caetano Veloso, Oguike has made a bright, cheerful closing number; sometimes rising above the expected level, for instance in an amusing, affectionate duet for Alicia Herrero-Simon and Nuna Silva. The dancing all through the show is good, and well shown off by Elizabeth King's costumes.

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