Rambert, Sadler's Wells, London
François Testory, Robin Howard Dance Theatre, The Place, London

After 100 years of the new, modern dance is still fizzing

Next year Rambert really will have something to celebrate, when it moves to gleaming new premises on London's South Bank. But for the moment it has the 100th birthday of the world's first piece of modern dance to toast, and 10 years of able leadership from Mark Baldwin, who offers his own choreographic answer to Nijinsky's strange, feral L'Après-midi d'un faune.

Under Baldwin, Britain's oldest dance company has paid close attention to its past – tricky, given its founding commitment to the new. But Baldwin knows it must if contemporary dance is to be seen as anything other than ephemeral. Hence the centrepiece of the evening: Siobhan Davies's 1995 career-best, The Art of Touch.

This achieves the feat not only of responding to its set of fizzing Scarlatti harpsichord sonatas with gleeful wit, but also of impersonating the instrument – its rapid precision, its action of quill plucking string, even its quality of sound. I don't know of a piece of dance more synaesthetic. At one point, the seven dancers jump manically from side to side, their feet switching direction like levers, their hands a blur just like the jangle of Carole Cerasi's brilliant playing. Its aptness makes you laugh out loud.

Itzik Galili's SUB won't be remembered years from now, but this muscle-fest for seven bare-chested guys with what look like army greatcoats slung around their hips is gruesomely watchable, if only for the quantity of sweat it generates and the play of lighting on every dripping sinew.

Perhaps it was a sop to Rambert's male cohort, given the daft feathers and fluff they consent to wear for What Wild Ecstasy, the new Baldwin item, which responds to the drowsy, animalistic urges of l'Après midi with an Acid House mating session for birds and bees. Peculiarly, though, Michael Howells's bold design features three giant wasps suspended over the action, poised as if about to zoom down to nibble someone's sandwich. But you get the general thrust, as it were, which is the urgency in the natural world to reproduce. Gavin Higgins's score (a Cultural Olympiad commission) is a riot of rutting strings and rude brass. The frenzied choreography isn't memorable, but the overall effect is a joyous crescendo of colour and energy that culminates in an orgasmic shower of yellow balls.

Preceding it, Nijinsky's original, or at least Marie Rambert's 1931 memory of it, is given a beautifully refined reading. Dane Hurst is compellingly remote as the Faun, his movements flattened and jerky in a manner that suggests both the 2D of an Egyptian frieze, and the startled movements of a wild creature. The Rambert Orchestra under Paul Hoskins rises easily to the challenges of Debussy's swooning heat-haze of a score.

François Testory, a performer whose long career has defied all attempts to label him, is still faun-like in his taut physique. Empire, directed and designed by Simon Vincenzi, is a one-man cabaret in which Testory assumes the character of an ageing chanteur-danseur who has somehow missed the boat. Part Pan, part Blanche Dubois, necking champagne from the bottle and tossing back pills, he blots out his fear of oblivion by running through his dream routine half-naked in a darkened theatre. A growly Edith Piaf number, a Spanish patter-song, a folksong in Old French, a haunting, falsetto "Music for a While" by Purcell, accompanied by Ian Hill's accordion – his range is astonishing. The movement, until he reduces it to static, highly wrought Greek-god poses, is less memorable, but all of a piece.

Critic's Choice

Mark Bruce (son of Christopher) has a track record of pungently charismatic dance theatre. Dark and sometimes comic, Made in Heaven merges ancient themes with a contemporary dystopia, set to music ranging from Debussy and Leadbelly to The Black Keys. At Exeter's Northcott Theatre (Wed) and Dance City, Newcastle (Sat), followed by a run at Wilton's Music Hall in London (31 May to 2 June), and further touring.

Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Jess Glynne is UK number 1

music

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor