Siobhan Davies: Two Quartets @ Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Two Quartets, the new work by Siobhan Davies, is a production that emanates both an ascetic aesthetic and a sense of fierce intelligence behind the choreography.

The work spins out from a need to communicate via pure movement and a need to distil the meaning of dance. The performance is divided into two, with the first half focuses on unity and the second on isolation. This juxtaposition heightens our awareness of the differences in the objectives of each piece.

In part one, two men and two women wear striking black and white costumes (by Jonathan Saunders). They weave and spiral around the stage, herding each other with bursts of speed. One moment they are aligned, the next they have broken out in geometric patterns only to regroup and repeat almost ritualistic moments of intimacy.

Somehow, throughout this, they remain an interdependent unit, only disturbed when one member goes amiss. When this happens, the audience feels his absence.

This sequence is given greater power by the great square of light suspended over the dancers. The minimalist conception is well suited to the soundtrack provided by Matteo Fargion. The additional traffic sound effects work particularly well with the stop/start motion of the piece.

However, at times, this first half felt like a sit-in at rehearsal, as if witnessing some choreographic exercise, rather than a fully formed work. There is little emotive quality to this piece, which is exasperating once you grasp the points Davies is making and I was left wanting more.

The second half departs deliberately from the first. Four identical panes of translucent glass are illuminated to hide the four individuals behind: three women and a man. They perform as soloists.

Using rhythm, precision and complex patterns of movement, each performance proffers an emotional memory. Unfortunately Fargions music is far more distracting in this half and adds hardly anything to the piece.

Of the dancers, Henry Montes is especially exhilarating. His desperation, frustration and nervousness becomes tangible and translate into a sensuous poetry. Deborah Saxon, is also marvellous as she struggles for control over her own body. She fights to turn away in one direction and is pulled in another.

Overall Two Quartets is too engrossed in theory to succeed in practice. It may be intelligent, but it is uninvolving. Davies has created a vivid and fluent piece, beautifully danced with dynmanic and subtle techniques but it intrigues more than it impresses.

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