Luminous, Sadler's Wells, London

Click to follow

Plenty of people walked out of Saburo Teshigawara's Luminous, most of them during his final solo. Why, when they'd made it that far? The solo is enormously long and punishingly disconnected, but it's in keeping with the entire piece.

Luminous manages to be strictly planned and incoherent. Teshigawara, the Japanese choreographer best known in the West, is interested in composition and space. His piece is precisely structured, a series of dances organised and held together by elaborate lighting design. There are plenty of themes, of patterns, but it's the dance material that looks disjointed; everything else may be exactly composed, but the steps just unravel.

The most striking idea in Luminous is Teshigawara's work with Stuart Jackson, a non-professional dancer who was born blind. Jackson dances alone, often spinning and running. He never looks insecure, and he's always in the right spot, facing the right way, perfectly placed on stage. That spatial awareness is fascinating, and Jackson's performance is an extraordinary achievement. It is a performance, too: he isn't a trained dancer, but he is a focused presence. However, Teshigawara's choreography, here as elsewhere, is long-winded. The collaboration with Jackson is remarkableas work on space and perception, but less so as theatre.

The lighting defines most of the episodes. Dancers perform in squares of light that grow and shrink around them. They jump up into horizontal beams set at shoulder level, then sink into darkness. A long line of square screens, set on a diagonal, is lit to show silhouettes or reflections. When a dancer passes through the line, he's reflected unsteadily in changing light, as if his steps were recorded on damaged, flickering film.

Light reveals colour, but you'd never know it from this show. The nearest Teshigawara gets to colour is the greenish tint of phosphorescent lighting. White clothes glow in the dark, leaving dancers apparently headless. The effect is weaker each time we return to it. We get a pair of trousers, apparently uninhabited, then an overcoat running about by itself. They do that in panto, too.

The dancers are often reduced to puppets. Two women dance a jerking, marionette dance while a third, dashing in and out of sight, wildly waves her hands and hair. Another dancer, masked and wigged, is suspended high over the stage.

Teshigawara hasn't much room for development, for a changing stage picture. He shows us one lighting setup, one set of steps. Then he does it again, or cuts away to the next scene. Action is random; an actor wanders through, burbling about light and infinity or reciting a speech from The Tempest. Music is electronic noise, or random snatches of a Mozart clarinet quintet.

That last solo exhausts audience patience because it has no graspable structure. Teshigawara repeats a long series of twitches, holds a flopped, knock-kneed pose, runs about. His movements aren't linked, and don't follow the music. There's no sense of progress, no movement logic. He'll keep going until he stops. No wonder people walked out.