Opus Cactus, Peacock Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

Momix was founded by Moses Pendleton, who also choreographed for opera, music videos and the closing ceremony of the 1980 Winter Olympics. His work is illusionistic. Creatures scuttle about the stage, as you try to work out which legs belong to which torso. In Opus Cactus, the dancers use props, lighting and costumes to highlight the acrobatics. The images can be striking and unexpected: a woman hooks her legs round a man's waist, then rears up her torso, gazing ahead. He arches back and strides forward. Together, they become an ostrich. It works because that walk is so precisely weighted and timed. The two bodies share a supple fluency.

Opus Cactus was inspired by the Arizona desert. The show is designed as a string of numbers: now a bird, now a lizard, now blowing tumbleweed. It goes from image to image, without much forward motion. The eclectic music doesn't provide much structure. Pendleton draws on a range of albums and movie scores, with atmospheric hums, chanting or drumbeats. It sounds vaguely eco-friendly, a bland and unresisting soundtrack. There's a beat, but the performers don't have to move in time to it.

The most imaginative images come in the first half. A woman swings in a hammock, wriggling in and out, curling in mid-air. Her movements flow easily, sliding into twists or poses. Whatever their contortions, the Momix dancers show no sense of strain. In a pole dance, the company's men are astonishingly assured. They vault forward with the poles, balance or swing round them; they're strong enough to swing slowly, sliding lazily through the air.

Four women dance with giant paper fans, turning them into skirts or peacock tails. Pendleton's best illusions have a nice sense of detail. As the women jump, they open and close the fans in time with their lifting legs - just the way fabric shifts over a moving body.

When Pendleton loses that precision, his choreography sags. In scarlet body tights, the men become some kind of reptile, kicking in and out of formation. A snake? A lizard? A monster? It's hard to tell.

In the second half, Opus Cactus becomes bitty, the images more limited. A man dances with flaming feet - literally, because he has torches held between his toes. It looks dangerous but dull. In the final scene, an elaborate death's head moth lurches forward over the dancers, as a puppeteer uses long rods to make its gauzy wings flap. This creature never quite comes to life. The skull head is too obviously plastic, the wings move too aimlessly.

To 1 October (0870 737 0337)

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