Yorke Dance Project, Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells


Anton Du Beke’s Easy To Love shows a ballroom dancer dipping a very cautious toe in contemporary waters. The Strictly Come Dancing dancer doesn’t move very far from the ballroom, sticking to traditional duets and Fred Astaire references. It’s part of an evening by Yorke Dance Project that promises more range than it can deliver.

Founded by Yolande Yorke-Edgell in 1998, Yorke Dance Project is a small-scale contemporary company with ambitions. The works on this programme include collaborations with artists and sculptors. Yorke-Edgell’s own choreography tends to be literary, with long quotations in voiceover; this programme has the overall title Words Worth. The dancing is clean and efficient, but the material lacks character.

Easy To Love is a series of traditional duets to recorded songs by Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. Given dancers with contemporary technique, Du Beke shows most interest in the men, who break away from the partner dancing to whirl through some twisting jumps. He doesn’t quite know what to do with the women, who stand around until the men are ready to partner them again.

Most of the duets are Astaire-inspired American smooth, losing some of its polish in the athletic lifts. Easy To Love comes off as contemporary dancers trying out ballroom. They’re not in their comfort zone, but they’re not exactly launching into new territory. This is ballroom danced in ballet “character” shoes; the heels are slightly thicker, the style less precise.

Yorke-Edgell’s Noted, which opens the evening, is a patchwork of letters by famous writers, from Madame de Sevigné to Hunter S Thompson. Sometimes we hear the letters, read in voiceover between dance numbers; others serve as background to the dances we see. Madame de Sevigné sits writing with a quill pen as courtiers bustle and gossip, flouncing stylised skirts. Yet we can’t tell what they’re gossiping about, or why it matters to them; it’s a lot of coming and going.

A scene for Queen Victoria and Albert is clearer, a romantic duet followed by death and mourning. Yorke-Edgell turns Marilyn Monroe’s letter from a psychiatric clinic into a spare contemporary solo for herself, with a sculpture by Sally McKay set up at the side of the stage. The dance is gently melancholy, without much sense of the personality we hear in the words.

Yorke-Edgell’s City Limitless was inspired by the beat writers. David McCormick’s film, projected onto a series of panels, suggests the neon of late-night streets, accompanied by audio clips of beat writers. Dancers point meaningfully to illustrate Jack Kerouac’s words, or shuffle through 1950s-inspired steps. Dancing is the thinnest part of this collage.

Until 15 November. Box office 0844 412 4300