In an evening of British and Chinese collaboration, with Asian dancers working with UK-based choreographers, what strikes most strongly is not the notion of east meets west but the interesting relationship between classical ballet and contemporary dance.
Across five works by Edwaard Liang, Russell Maliphant and Christopher Wheeldon, it is China-born (but now San Francisco-based) ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan and Taiwanese contemporary dancer Fang-Yi Sheu who really shine. Both move with remarkable ease, making the most challenging sequences seem effortless. Tan is elegance personified, with her willowy limbs floating through the air; Sheu, who trained in the technique of Martha Graham, has a much earthier quality, excelling in counter-balances and intricate arm patterns.
In terms of choreography, Five Movements, Three Repeats has great appeal, as Wheeldon explores and combines Tan and Sheu's individual styles with great respect for both. His After the Rain, a meditative duet to music by Arvo Pärt, is also beautiful and intricate.
Liang's Finding Light is pretty but conventional. Maliphant's PresentPast failed to retain our engagement, but his Two x Two concluded the evening on a real high note with its mesmeric circular movements.
The evening is like haute cuisine - a five course menu of small portions, lasting just an hour in total (plus interval). But as with premium food, it is the quality rather than quantity that matters and here, while the quality of the choreography was mixed, the skill of the two leading dancers was exquisite.
The Liang/Maliphant/Wheeldon bill is at Sadler's Wells tonight only. Tickets priced £12-38 are available from the Sadler's Wells box office. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review this performance.
Pictured: Five Movements, Three Repeats / Photo: Erin Baiano