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The Independent Culture

Union Dance has athletic, fluent dancers, but Sense of Rapport, the current programme, doesn't quite know what to do with them. This double bill includes film imagery, candles and costumes with electric lights, but it lacks theatrical bite. Union, now a seven-strong company, was founded in 1985, with diversity as its ideal. Programme notes overflow with dry buzzwords - cultural identity, holistic philosophy. That well-meaning woolliness has crept into Rapport, which was choreographed by the company.

It starts in dim light; the dancers bring on candles, walking reverently about the stage. It looks ritualistic, but lacks discipline. Behind, a screen shows a pattern of white smoke. Singly or in pairs, the dancers add a few moves, swaying or stretching limbs. It feels like a long time before they actually get down to dancing.

The music is a mix of urban and world. The film shifts to show the dancers themselves, live movement echoed by that on screen. The dancing is muscular, but unfocused. The strongest dancing comes from Hian Ruth Voon, poised and forceful in solos and duets.

Rafael Bonachela's Silence Disrupted is a better bet. He has choreographed for Rambert and Kylie Minogue, and does much more to stretch the company. Yet it starts badly. Two dancers walk on in darkness, lit up by little lights on their costumes. It's a clunky device. Ulli Oberlack's sculptural pieces are placed at thigh, upper arm and collarbone. They spread some light, but what you see is illuminated neck or armpit.

Still, the dancing itself is immediately better. As a woman straightens her leg, the slow movement has real momentum, ending in a cleanly stretched pose. Derek Richards's filmed backdrop shows shifting patterns, dancers seen through electrical fuzz.

There are more patterns in Bill Deverson's lighting design, which highlights some movements or throws the dancers into shadow. The women wear fussy costumes by Jessica Bugg: hooded crop tops with straps crossing the midriff, spiky layered skirts. The men get off lightly, with plain white trousers.

Duets grow out of larger group dances. Will Thorburn and Gerrard Martin turn and grapple, reaching over to clutch each other. Dee Ovens and Voon stand side by side, gazing into space, before snapping into motion, their legs flailing. A trio ends in a heap on the floor. Bonachela's dance wanders, but he gets the company moving.

Arts Centre, Salisbury, on 8 December (01722 321744; www.uniondance.co.uk)

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