American choreographer Stephen Petronio has several trademarks: nervy, every-which-way steps, gender role-play, cult contemporary music, and high-fashion costumes that show a whole lot of leg. They are all here in the hip Beauty and the Brut. The soundtrack, by Fischerspooner, overlays dawdling electronic riffs with sampled speech. The scenario is a pick-up on a beach. The six women are deadpan-chic, with off-the-cuff kicks and flails. The lumpen gestures of the three men – monkey paws, crotch-scratching – are offset by their stylised swimwear: a giant nautical rope necklace, a designer beach mat worn as a bib. The guys and gals circle and interweave, but maintain an emotional distance. Like the score, the choreography keeps layering and looping back on itself. The effect is like a shot of randiness dispersed in clouds of self-consciousness; think glossy US teen flick meets 1960s French cinema.
There is more posturing in This Is the Story of a Girl in the World. But also more heart, imparted by the fragile voice of Antony Hegarty. One scene features a tomboyish woman in a schoolboy jacket, another an off-kilter chorus line in outsize T-shirts printed with large faces. A near-naked couple run through sequences of off-the-peg poses. You get a sense of posture as a kind of clothing; clothing as a kind of makeup.
The centrepiece and highlight of the evening is Bloom, set to choral music by Rufus Wainwright that is at once both lush and spiritual. The dancers are as wired as ever, but the arc of the choreography clicks into gear with the music, moving through a series of build-ups that suggest budding, burgeoning and finally, rapture.