In The Place Of My Dream, The Place, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Click to follow

Ballet, certainly; folk dance, sure; but Russia isn't known for its contemporary dance. As the country has opened up to the West, however, its dancers have sought out other traditions. In the Place of My Dream, by Dina Husein and Anna Abalihina, is an example of Russia's fledgling modern school. It's episodic and untidy, with plenty of whimsy and far too many false endings. Yet Husein and Abalihina are lively performers, with a sense of style.

The piece is a mix of dance and animation, breaking into a series of sketches. At first, Husein and Abalihina skitter about in hooped skirts, their faces veiled. The movement mixes the floaty and the angular. The women rush and spin, with a flutter of pink and purple gauze, or fold their arms sternly about themselves, elbows flexed, hands to breasts. Flying exits are followed by calm entrances. The changes of pace are so tightly controlled that I wondered if there were really only two of them.

Both dancers are quick and supple, with distinctive personalities. The curly-haired Husein is bouncier, scampering through her steps. At one point, she turns in what looks like a Russian-speaking Gollum impersonation, crooning and cursing over scraps of paper. Abalihina is drier and often funnier, with a deadpan face and ironic sideways glances.

Between dances, we see video art by Patrick K-H. Filmed versions of Husein and Abalihina dive in and out of cartoon settings. It looks rather like Terry Gilliam's work for Monty Python, though Patrick K-H's images are much less distinctive. All the film sequences go on too long, though I liked a quartet for the dancers and their filmed selves, the women swapping real and virtual partners.

Another section is filled with helium balloons. The women tuck them under their skirts, making bustles or pregnant bulges. They arrange little groups of balloons, hold the strings in their mouths, swap or squabble over them. By this point, the pace is starting to sag. There are so many possible balloon arrangements, but they aren't gripping to watch. And with so many episodes, the work becomes bitty.

It's no surprise to find that Husein and Abalihina have Dutch training and experience. At times, In the Place of My Dream has the interminable quality of Kylián or Lightfoot Léon being funny: the many sketches, the surrealism, the self-indulgence. It's lifted by the freshness of the performances, particularly in pure dance scenes.