Matthew Hawkins Dance Company, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Matthew Hawkins's Silent Rhythms is one of those pieces that splits your mind intwo. At one moment you think there has to be a secret narrative - a silent, rhythmic logic - if only you could decode it, and you note that Rose English is credited with the dramaturgy. At another, frustrated, you begin to suspect that the dramaturgy may be irrelevant, if not a downright bluff, and decide that what you see is what there is, nothing less and nothing more.

The enigma is a little distracting, but the visual impact is so beautiful that it wins the day. You don't often see a mainly classical vocabulary used with such harmonious reverence and interesting experimentation. Hawkins trained at the Royal Ballet School and was briefly a member of the Royal Ballet, so it is fitting that he should occasionally appear at the Royal Opera House as part of its satellite programming.

A major player for two decades on the independent scene, Hawkins has worked with a varied range of people. Silent Rhythms bears memory traces of a choreographic stint with dance students based in Istanbul, and Tan Temel, a member of the Istanbul dance faculty, is one of the performers.

Also included in the five-strong cast are Hawkins himself and Kirsty Simmonds, who not only dances but plays the piano solo in César Franck's otherwise taped Piano Trio No 4. Especially pleasing is the piece's carefully varied structure, passages of live piano sandwiched between wedges of taped music and silence. The start features silence and two women - Simmonds and Soraya Han - who perform slow shapes with deliberation and mystery. They are dressed, like the others, in patterned leotards by Hawkins's long-term collaborator, the adventurously named Pearl.

The mysterious atmosphere continues through to the end, created by the careful patterns, postures and mirror symmetries. Passages of jumps and steps highlight the luminous purity of ballet - and its stamina-sapping difficulty, the dancers' breathing audible and Hawkins sensibly watching from the front of the stage, his back to the audience. Other, gently unorthodox passages appear as cameos. A series of stylish attitude poses, for example, is accessorised with mischievous hand-waggling. Or Hawkins sits, legs splayed and fingers kneading the floor. Or he walks with head leaning back on the arm of a tiptoeing companion.

The programme notes include a collection of poetic sentences by Hawkins, which find echoes in the movement and were probably an inspiration. Either way, hermetic, rhythmic, sometimes silent, Silent Rhythms has the sophistication and musical sensitivity to be a worthy addition to this fine choreographer's repertoire.

Comments