First Night: Brazilian dancers use the music for flight

`Rota' Deborah Colker Co London

IF YOU feel like complaining about the demands made on you, go see Deborah Colker's 14 dancers. They bounce, somersault and hang like giddy flies on a surreally giant electric fan. Yet they look interested and at ease and seem almost nonchalant - so would we all if we lived in sunny, sybaritic Rio de Janeiro, as they do. But they also have a super- fitness and discipline - an obvious prerequisite to cope with the athletic extremes imposed by Ms Colker, a former high-level volleyball player.

These days, boring old floors are apparently not enough. Rope to swing from and walls to climb have become de rigueur among visiting dance companies. In a previous piece, Ms Colker had indeed employed a huge wall, built with threads for the dancers to swarm their way up. But now she trumps this with a giant wheel - 22ft-high and 1.5 tons in weight - for her brief 1997 piece, Rota, which she has brought to the Peacock Theatre in London.

The apparatus comes as the closing climax, the dancers balanced as if they were hamsters on their treadmills. Rota, Ms Colker says, is about the exploration of our surrounding space and, to that end, act one concerns itself with the basics - keeping the dancers floor-bound like normal people. They perform normal gestures - head scratchings, slaps, small encounters - or assemble into blocks of unison, bouncy movement, not far removed from keep-fit drills.

In fact, the choreography of the whole piece is about gymnastics rather than dance. In the next section, "Gravity", inspired by the idea of weightless astronauts, the dancers float in slow motion, tread the blue fog around them, mould themselves into up-ended shoulder stands and other pretzel shapes. And so on to "Wheel", the finale, inspired by entertainment parks and the Earth's rotation. Surplus artists or the cosmos' earthlings - however you choose to view them - revolve and travel along the wheel's spokes. It requires absolute precision since the wheel is unstable and the smallest human movement affect its velocity and direction.

Meanwhile, a Strauss waltz plays, part of a musical fusion that overlaps whale noises, Mozart and just about everything else. Fastidiousness is not the point. Accessibility and entertainment are, and the magical transcendence of the body's limitations - which is why Rota has so far played to more than 200,000 people.

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