Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson, review: At their best as sado-masochistic criminals

Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London

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The Independent Culture

Wendy Whelan and Edward Watson have plenty in common: long-limbed, sinewy dancers with nervous intensity and serious cheekbones. In Other Stories, former New York City Ballet star Whelan and The Royal Ballet’s Watson commission a range of new works. In some, they coyly pretend to be themselves. It’s when they start playing Brechtian sado-masochistic criminals that the evening takes off.

Javier de Frutos’ self-conscious First and Wait shows the pair fidgeting and teasing in a waiting room. Arlene Phillips’ Dance Me To The End of Love has Watson reliving a love affair. He doesn’t relax into the songs Phillips chooses: the giddy joy of pop music is missing. Whelan is sharp-edged in a solo by Annie-B Parson and a duet by Danièle Desnoyers.

Arthur Pita’s The Ballad of Mack and Ginny is a knowing tango to music from Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera. Partnering Whelan, Watson holds a bunch of her hair rather than her hand. She cuts his clothes off with a switchblade. The dancing is jagged, full of power games and complicity. The lean ballet physiques give Pita’s tango steps an angular attack, while his drama makes the most of the stars’ charisma.

Until 12 July. Box office 020 7304 4000