Rambert Dance Company, Sadler's Wells, London

Thrill to the mix of crash, bang and wallop
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The Independent Culture

Contrast and diversity is the basis of Rambert's new programme. Something for many tastes; but does that also imply some unevenness? Maybe so. There are three new productions plus one of the master works of contemporary dance,Pierrot Lunaire, a staple in this repertoire for more than 30 years. The most notable new work is the first for Rambert by Wayne McGregor, who has come to the fore among Britain's younger choreographers, to the extent that his own company, Random, will become resident at Sadler's Wells from next month.

He calls his new work detritus, implying the choreographic fragmentation that is caused by rubbing an extremely fierce treatment of ballet technique against the smoothness of modern dance. Ana Lujan Sanchez starts the process with her pointed shoes lethally stabbed and flashed; she is joined by Paul Liburd and Rafael Bonachela for a long, stressful prologue.

A structure of what looks like dangerous machinery (designed by Dicki Mortimer) hangs over the stage, moving up and down to threaten and harass the large cast as they enter and develop extensive manoeuvres in varied moves, with the emphasis on speed and attack. McGregor describes the music by Scanner as pro-vocative, and I can't better that; it is often extremely loud, with much banging and squealing.

The simple red costumes by Ben Maher, women in trunks and tops, men in all over suits, look good; more apt and flattering than the decorated tights shown in advance publicity. Rambert's dancers take to McGregor's challenges brilliantly.

Another premiere, Siobhan Davies' re-working of her 1989 creation Sounding, holds its own in comparison, in spite (or perhaps because) of being very quiet and sober, to Giacinto Scelsi's mysterious and complex scoreOkanagon for harp, double bass and tamtam. Rafael Bonachela's thrilling solo stands out among the six discreetly excellent dances.

Richard Alston's new workUnrest looks accomplished but pallid next to this. He too closely follows his chosen composer, Arvo Pärt (Fratres for solo violin and piano) in hiding the emotion in his choreography. How good it would be to see again the sense of fun he showed in many early works.

It is always a pleasure to see Glen Tetley's Pierrot Lumaire, even though this was not an ideal performance. Linda Hirst, mezzo-soprano, concentrated more on the singing than on the speaking aspect of Schoenberg's sprechgesang song cycle and the text was seldom clear.

More matter and less art would have benefited the dancing, too. Martin Lindinger looks to have the potential for a good Pierrot, but seemed to want to show his beautiful arabesque and good leaps more than the poetry of the role, although he did make some of the comedy funnier than usual. Neither Deirdre Chapman (Columbine) nor Branden Faulls (Brighella) gave their characters much depth; but even so the ballet as a whole still works.

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