Flash Mob, Peacock Theatre, London

The popularity of dance on television is a phenomenon of recent years. From the astonishing curves and bends, the even more astonishing prodigality of paillettes, which marked ballroom dancing programmes, to the involvement of non-dancers eager to look their worst in Strictly Come Dancing, the telly-dance boom has produced such jollities as So You Think You Can Dance and Got to Dance which hold a huge public by astonishing displays of hip-hop and are tremendously the experience of a youth culture, and significant, splendid.

Flash Mob, now installed at the Peacock, presents performers who have made an impact on the television public: Charlie Bruce; US hip-hop crew Elektrolites; the duo Alleviate; an Irish dance couple, Brosena; R Elle Niane and Edwar Ramos. The event is directed by Gary Lloyd, lit by Ben Cracknell, has an ear-bruising electronic accompaniment from hither and yon, and I found it for the most part boisterously dull.

The performers are eager, but they are urgently in need of direction that will shape abilities, give purpose to a display such as this by pruning and developing dance ideas, by focusing evident talent and removing the amateurish, the self-indulgent, and altering most of the costuming. Only the Elektrolites are well displayed in two routines that have evidently been honed for US television. Here the action is vivid, buoyant as the dancers’ energies, and benefits from a sense of theatrical purpose. For the rest there were oddly abrupt displays made, I assume, by the performers, and none the better for that. (An Irish starched-arm-and-busy-footed response to an electronically mauled fragment from Beethoven’s fifth symphony had all the charm of root-canal dentistry.)

The lighting, from a profusion of spotlights, sought to dazzle us by shining in our eyes, and revealed the dance in peremptory (and certainly predictable) fashion. For design, there was dry ice but no other evident feeling for décor. The all-too-generous sound system made a fearful racket. The dancers went through their routines with good will, basic emotions and, for the most part, expressions of ecstatic delight or faint glumness. The audience screamed, clapped, had a wonderful time. Your critic thought longingly of the exit.


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