Brazilian choreographer Deborah Colker has developed a broad fan base in the UK with works built around athletic action, easy-on-the-ear musical compilations and big, apparatus-like sets. Her latest piece, Cruel, continues this line but also explores edgier dramatic territory.
The opening scene looks dazzling. The dancers – eight men, eight women – are in stylish suits and chic cocktail gowns, and a giant glowing globe dominates the stage. But while the choreography seems to pitch for dangerous liaisons, its moments of drama – partners pursued, discarded, avoided – are dissipated in generic formation dancing and bland step-and-gesture sequences.
The following section is stronger. A long bench on wheels allows Colker to send her dancers vaulting around a movable set – something she clearly enjoys. She also takes a stab at psychodrama, the performers stripping off finery to expose more hidden, forbidden selves. A corsetted woman’s black pointe shoes appear as sharp and deadly as the knives she brandishes. Two men twist and dodge like guilty witnesses as a couple stalk each other in a hunt that spirals into murder.
It’s darker than anything Colker has attempted before, but she doesn’t follow through. The second half reverts to a more familiar mode, foregrounding physical and visual punch. It’s thrilling to watch, the dancers diving through portholes in revolving mirrors, turning the whole stage into a kind of moving target. But it seems more meaningful in Colker’s head than in the material.