Ney - Flames of Passion, Peacock Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

Someone in the Istanbul entertainment business has looked at Riverdance and seen the light. Ney - Flames of Passion is a packaged dance-show, with massed ranks of belly dancers and a crashingly amplified soundtrack. It's Mediterranean dance as cabaret turn, more mascara than style. The Peacock Theatre is packed and enthusiastic.

Someone in the Istanbul entertainment business has looked at Riverdance and seen the light. Ney - Flames of Passion is a packaged dance-show, with massed ranks of belly dancers and a crashingly amplified soundtrack. It's Mediterranean dance as cabaret turn, more mascara than style. The Peacock Theatre is packed and enthusiastic.

The show promises an overview of the dances of Anatolia. We get gypsy dances, belly dances, even satyr dances, but the Riverdance template dominates. Does Anatolia really have that many no-arms step dances? The women even wear the Irish dance show's characteristic black tights, along with midriff-baring tops and gold coins.

That's the least of the costuming problems. The "ney" of the title is the reed flute, and a half-hearted prologue shows a flautist inspiring the dancers. They parade on in long robes and flowing streamers - a Day-Glo version of traditional dress, with ribbons of that neon fabric used for road-safety clothing. At least they show up amid the dry ice.

Once they have acknowledged the flute, traditional music is ditched in favour of thumping beats. The dancers line up for fast, stomping numbers, but these aren't step dances. The soft shoes make no sound. As dancing, it's efficient but dull, all glassy smiles and blank, aerobics-class phrasing. The legs go fast, but they don't have much rhythmic force.

The show's selling point is the belly dancing. Dozens of women troop on, trailing frilled white gauze, and wriggle with a will. Virtuoso belly dancers have torsos like rippling water; these girls just circle their hips. Some wave feather fans, and one marches forward for a solo. She twists harder, but she's no more accomplished. It's chorus-line belly dance: toned midriffs and big hair.

There are odd dramatic numbers between the formation dances. Everybody waves their arms in explanatory gestures, without making the plots quite clear. There's a myth sequence, with the Greek god Dionysus in a tinsel mask. His worshippers crawl about the stage, wearing shaggy bodices, stern expressions and one red stocking each.

There's a sub-balletic music-box dance, and a gypsy scene, complete with a wooden caravan. A celebration of the Black Sea involves some solemn wafting around with lengths of tie-dyed fabric. I much preferred the brief glimpse of a belly-dancing mermaid - after all, a show this kitsch should play to its trashy strengths.

The first-act finale is the one good dance. It's billed as a rakkase, an Arabian dance, and it really does look like folk-dancing. Lines of dancers cross the stage, arms upheld, heads turning left and right. They arrange themselves in concentric circles, turning in different directions. The dancers need more attack and a better sense of style, but the patterns are beautiful.

That scene also has the best flashy dancing. One man spins on his knees, arms outstretched. Several men fight with swords, striking sparks with their blades, or kick out their legs in Cossack style. They storm through Georgian toe-dances - pointe work for men, hopping on curled-under toes. It looks painful, but it's fast and exuberant.

To Sunday (0870 737 0337)

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