Luminous, Edinburgh Playhouse

A fluid wash-out of sprawling ambition

In a festival devoid of high-profile dance, Saburo Teshigawara's medium-scale, medium-famous Karas company has earned top billing. Luminous, a full evening piece premiered last year, certainly features luminosity – along with a great many shades of black.

Sudden beams dissect the inkyness, revealing an elaborate set of perspex screens of exposed figures. Dazzling white projections create corridors and squares on the floor or back wall. In the second half, it is the nine performers themselves who become suffused with light, appearing as fluorescent silhouettes which move in the dark like paper puppets. The sound switches as abruptly and frequently as the visual effects – cosmic chuggings, volcanic rumbles and galactic rattles, which yield towards the end to Mozart.

The problem is, you're never sure what it all adds up to. The opposition of light and dark embraces notions of being and non-being, the void and the material. Teshigawara seems to be also hinting at more complex thematic strands without satisfactorily communicating them. The dancers in their black or white costumes produce arresting group patterns that don't appear to function beyond decoration. A black English actor Evroy Deer attempts to supply moral significance with portentous allegorical soliloquies that flounder in seas of vapidity. Stuart Jackson, also English and, with Deer, the only non-Japanese performer, carries darkness within him because he has been blind from birth. He dances a long closing duet with Teshigawara, which is seemingly full of narrative resonances that remain frustratingly obscure.

No Teshigawara show would be complete without one of his mesmerising, extraordinary solos: boneless, wavering movement, which drifts as if floating through water then suddenly switches into sharp slicing curves and fast spilling turns. Luminous provides several long passages of this, but even they overstay their welcome, recycling the same procedures once too often.

Dancer, choreographer, designer and music compiler, Teshigawara is either a Renaissance man or a control freak. In his previous, imaginatively original work, he has tended to come across as the former, but not in Luminous. In taking too much solitary control for a project of sprawling ambition, he has allowed himself the total artistic freedom to lose focus and intellectual rigour.

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