It keeps happening. As the lights go up on a dance by American company Momix, you see bodies arranged into pictures and patterns – but how many bodies? And facing which way? Is that a neck, or an elbow?
Choreographer Moses Pendleton tangles dancers into optical illusions, like human versions of those pictures that show a vase or two faces. That's the skill and the drawback of this show – like those pictures, it's clever but limited.
This show celebrates 25 years of Momix. Pendleton made his name with the dance theatre group Pilobolus, known for their dreamlike sketches and illusions.
With Momix, Pendleton is jolly rather than hallucinatory. His dancers are sleekly flexible, exactly calibrated; nothing destroys the illusion. They swing on poles and ropes, dive through frames, balance at impossible angles. Masked or shadowed, they have little chance to make an impact as individuals.
In Spawning, three of them manipulate huge, glowing globes. They juggle them around their bodies, or balance them on their upturned faces. As the number ends, they let go – and the globes turn out to be helium balloons, floating away.
The Last Vaudevillian has a grotesque mask face and a body swathed in black. As he/she/it bounces up and down, you realise that the face is on the dancer's feet, with shoes on hands.
Tuu is a balance duet for Sara Kappraff and Timothy Melady. They lean together or away, each using the other's weight. Pendleton pushes this to extremes; Melady holds a handstand at a not-quite-vertical angle, while Kappraff clings to his torso, legs and body arched.
Pendleton arranges bodies in unpredictable ways, but he's aiming for the same kind of effect. The music ranges from film soundtracks to didgeridoo recordings, but the mood is a constant New Age hum.
The mix of muscular control and cutesy imagery is slick. Each number is exactly paced, making a precise effect, holding it, moving on. The skill is remarkable, but there are few surprises. The trick appears, stays long enough for you to guess how it works, then vanishes.
To 24 November (0844 412 4300)