Oh My Goddess, Sadler's Wells, London

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The Independent Culture

Michael Clark has an eager audience. They cheer before the performance, murmur at the first sight of their hero, go happily wild at the end. This is the art/fashion crowd Clark brought to dance in the 1980s, still loyal despite the stops and starts of his erratic career.

That career has been much more focused lately. After a decade of comebacks and vanishing acts, Clark has been working consistently, taking commissions from the Ballet Boyz and Mikhail Baryshnikov, building up his own show.

Several of the dances in Oh My Goddess were on Clark's experimental bill at the Barbican earlier this year. They're stronger now. Sequences are clearly linked, aimed directly at the audience. It no longer looks like a work in progress.

The changes shift attention onto Clark's dancers. Up to the 1990s, when I started watching him, Clark's shows were held together by his own radiant dancing. Whatever he wore or did, he looked glowingly beautiful. At 40 he's still elegant, but you can take your eyes off him. His appearances are brief, and he no longer takes over the stage.

Clark has a splashy reputation, but here he's a meticulous choreographer. These pieces are minimalist: precise movement, and not much of it. The dancing in "Satie Studs" is a series of poses. Movement is stripped down to the turn of a wrist, the arch of a foot. That those tiny shifts often come from dancers in head - or shoulder-stands doesn't affect their austerity.

Some of the studies are solos, some are unison duets. They always look like solos. Performances are exact and withdrawn, dancers isolated by their own strictness. That nuts-and-bolts approach is how Clark approaches his music, too. He pays very close attention moment by moment, tracking small changes rather than larger shapes.

The music is played live by Piano Circus, giving the dance a stupendous backdrop of four grand pianos. Four pianos for these solo studies seems profligate until the last dance, played in unison by all four and danced by the full cast.

It's a surprise to see the same academic severity set to rock guitar or synthesiser. Oh My Goddess is danced to several PJ Harvey numbers, with chugging guitars and heavy bass. His dances are crisp, fast, dazzlingly clear. Even when his dancers fall writhing and heaving to the floor, they're not earthy.

Everything about this evening is assured, exact and cool. The opening "Dreams" has everyone in asymmetrical black wigs, early 1980s hair to match a song by the Human League. They dance fast, but with the same rigour and the same containment. Clark tells jokes with wigs; steps are no laughing matter.