Shift, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

2.00

The Royal Ballet's latest programme sandwiches a baffling dramatic work between two displays of dancing. Kim Brandstrup's new work is called Rushes: Fragments of a Lost Story, so perhaps it's churlish to complain that this fractured story is confusing. The real trouble is that it lacks drama. Confrontations are blurred, emotions vague.

The big news of this production is the music. Brandstrup uses a recently rediscovered Prokofiev score, sketches for a film project that was never completed, arranged and expanded by composer Michael Berkeley. It sounds, well, like film music: some distinctive, astringent orchestration, some touches of melody, but mostly accompaniment.

Richard Hudson's designs give the ballet a movie background. Fringed curtains act as transparent screens. One sequence, full of angular grey patterns, suggests both a constructivist painting and the glowing shadows of a black and white film.

Brandstrup's dances are both thin and involved. Carlos Acosta seems to be torn between Laura Morera (red dress, clearly a Bad Girl) and Alina Cojocaru (a heroine in grey). That's a charismatic cast, but you wouldn't know it from this ballet. The steps wind and dither, barely touching the Prokofiev score. A corps of dancers walk through, watch and move on.

There's another fragmented story in Balanchine's Serenade, but this one is wholly satisfying. As soloists whirl out of the corps of women, they fall, dance with men, are parted. There are hints of fate, of death or transcendence. These moments flow out of the music, out of Balanchine's marvellous corps patterns.

If anything, the Royal Ballet dancers make too much of them, giving simple gestures an emphatic edge. Marianela Nuñez acts too much, but the sheer attack of her dancing is wonderful. She soars through buoyant jumps, dancing with abandon. Lauren Cuthbertson is speedy and bold, her footwork vivid in her turning solos. Mara Galeazzi is anonymous in the third solo role. The corps gain speed and authority as the ballet continues.

Homage to the Queen is a long parade of dances by four choreographers. It's episodic, with a queen, a court and a little ballet for each of four elements, all leading up to a camp royalist tableau. Momentum is easily lost, particularly since the dancing is variable. Feet look fudgy in David Bintley's fiddly "Earth" section. Frederick Ashton's lovely "Air" pas de deux is let down by Alexandra Ansanelli, who lacks authority. Michael Corder's "Water" section sparkles, with clean dancing from all the principals. Barry Wordsworth's conducting makes the most of Malcolm Arnold's score, with loving attention to its lyrical sections.

Shift, by the aerialist company Gravity & Levity, is a nice idea that doesn't quite come off. Lindsey Butcher has commissioned three works from different choreographers, all showing the underpinnings of aerial dancing. You don't just see the dancers pulled off the ground, you see them scurrying about with sandbags and wires, pulling the practical set into new patterns. Though performances are fresh and appealing, the idea wears thin.

Charlotte Vincent's section works best, with the dancers squabbling as they set to work. Dancer Guy Adams fusses around, pulling ropes too quickly, until the other dancers shout at him to be careful. "It's expensive, that stuff," complains artistic director Butcher. "We don't get much funding... and some of it's borrowed from other companies." The quarrels are wittily observed, woven into the movement, with dancers bouncing on ropes or scrambling out of tricky predicaments.

Charles Linehan sets Butcher swinging in lyrical circles, clinging to a plank. The setup takes time, but there is a payoff. I had lost patience by the time we reached the final sequence, by Stomp co-creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. With a cat's-cradle of ropes, the cast swing or drop planks and sandbags to make rhythmic patterns. It takes for ever to get all the props in place, and then the plodding rhythms just aren't worth it.

Tours to 14 May (www.gravity-levity.net)

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
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.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum