Mirage, South Bank Centre, London <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Srishti, founded by the dancer Nina Rajarani, is a company pulled in two directions at once. Rajarani, who trained in the Indian classical style bharata natyam, wants to keep it authentic while adding a contemporary twist. There's a danger of dilution.

The company dances works by Rajarani and by guest choreographers, often from different styles. The second half of Mirage is by Zimbabwe-born Bawren Tavaziva, who seems to speak some bharata natyam without being fluent.

Rajarani's own piece, K?dal? ... Is It Love?, takes traditional motifs and updates them. Rather than dancing the story of Krishna and his lovers, Rajarani is a modern woman worrying about her lover's commitment, like an Indian classical Bridget Jones.

In her opening mime, Rajarani plucks petals from a flower: he loves me, he loves me not. She sits opposite Y Yadavan, her composer and vocalist, as if confiding her troubles, then drifts away to dance. The steps are traditional, with ankle bells, glances, fluttering fingers. She's a sleek, confident dancer, yet her dancing misses the rhythmic complexity possible in this style.

Her company appear as a kind of chorus, circling her or peeling off into lines and squares. Are they her backing group, images of her lover, dancers who need to be fitted in somehow? Rajarani's story-telling doesn't make sense of them. The music is odd, heavily amplified fusion.

In Tavaziva's piece, the dancers are in simpler clothes, without bells. The musicians are brought into the dancing area, given simpler steps at the edges. Rajarani lies in a square of light. Yadavan doesn't so much sing as howl, in a rasping, gasping voice. The other dancers join in, each in his own lit square. The men confront each other, taking up aggressive poses. Those combats look slightly classical, but Tavaziva does very little with their hands and feet.

Fight poses are followed by jolly dances; people swap squares, then move back. One man falls down, sobbing, and announces that "life is a mirage". It's hard to take seriously, as though Tavaziva is trying for effects that don't come off.

Touring to 2 April (see www.srishti.co.uk)