Dance: The Featherstonehaughs go fishing

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Indy Lifestyle Online
LEA ANDERSON'S Out on the Windy Beach, premiered at the Brighton Festival, brings together her two sibling companies, the Cholmondeleys and the Featherstonehaughs, for the first time in five years. It's a pity that such couplings are so rare. This new piece, performed on a wooden jetty with adapted beach hut, offers surreal humour and taut technique in a combination that sits together like a jigsaw. Set to old- time Appalachian and Amazonian tea-dance music - yes, really - played on banjo and concertina, it is a dark paean to the powers of the sea and the uneasy relationship we have with the environment. The sextet of dancers - the three Fans are male, the three Chums female - maintain a terrified gaze throughout at some unspecified threat on the watery horizon. Though you wonder quite what could be more alarming than their own Dayglo-green webbed velveteen costumes with matching flip-flops and orange ski masks.

This performance is at its best when just being amusing. Three of the floppy creatures slither to the beach hut, disappear through a flap and reappear, clad in neon-pink mini-skirts. In more serious moments, a line of synchronised flapping arms registers nothing but puzzlement with the audience - perhaps they are semaphoring an octopus. The Featherstonehaughs' ponderous hop-dance plunged the audience into Lewis Carroll's world of lobster quadrilles.

Elsewhere in Brighton, Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker has brought her major piece Mikrokosmos to this country for the first time. All the hallmarks of her art were there - the pale green cacti standing sentinel on the stage, the sparse elegance of the dance.

Mikrokosmos begins with a duet between Samantha Van Wissen and Martin Kilvady set to a series of compositions by Bela Bartk. Dances between members of the opposite sex rely on dynamic description of gender differences. But Van Wissen's expressive femininity simply stifles the confused surliness of her male partner. There are harmonious moments - as they glisse across the stage, she mirrors him with just a shoulder-shrug of indifference. In an arousing crescendo of repetition, she is forced into action by the push of his shoulder, until eventually she flops like a rag doll on the floor.

The second piece, Quatuor Number 4, is archetypal Keersmaeker. A quartet of female dancers in short, full black skirts, black socks and black T- shirt travel in perfect synchronicity across the stage. Their feet scrape slowly in unison, then arms and heads creamily roll and stretch, skirts swinging in rhythm. When the sensual strains of the Bartk begin, the women start stroking their faces; the violins swoon.

The choreography is beautifully precise. The women sweep like waves across the stage, with the occasional Cyd Charisse sway of the hips and a flamenco flash of the arms. These repetitive, almost hypnotic movements are layered with all sorts of influences, from the simple waltz to a typically Martha Graham movement of the upper torso.

Allee der Kosmonauten, part of the Turning World season at The Place in London, is a vivacious affair. Choreographed by the Berliner Sasha Waltz, the piece hits the ground running and doesn't come up for air until a full 65 minutes later.

The action centres on six members of a family dysfunctional enough to make the Krays look like the Waltons, and at times, the performance is more circus than dance. The father plays the accordion while revolving on his head; a wooden plank takes a starring role; and the Hoover takes a waltz with a demonic housewife.

Attempts at sexual congress between two characters - hard to say if it was father and mother or son and girlfriend - become a dark examination of male violence. The two indulge in aggressive foreplay, with his tenderest moments being a mock execution. She's snapped out of the violence by the arrival of another male figure - wrapped up and carried in a pink sheet.

The pigtailed sister is a whirlwind of discontented ennui, existing only to annoy her siblings. When, dancing together, the three generations of women contort themselves provocatively, it is to Waltz's credit that they remain utterly unseductive.

'Out on the Windy Beach': Brighton (01273 706771), today (2.30pm & 8.30pm); free. Jenny Gilbert is away.

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