23 May 2004: Dance: Amy Raphael on Ballet Preljocaj

Ballet Preljocaj: Near Life Experience Concert Hall, Brighton Dome

Angelin Preljocaj’s new show, Near Life Experience, opens with a woman sitting high on a lifeguard’s chair having an extended orgasm. She isn’t touching herself but she sits calmly, looking down on her fellow dancers and making sexy noises into a microphone against a backdrop of pulsating electro music. On the other side of the stage, a dancer weaves his body slowly in and out of a second lifeguard’s chair.

French-Albanian choreographer Preljocaj says the work was inspired by those who have out-of-body experiences when they are near death, but it’s not really necessary to go down the exis tential route to appreciate this stunning show. It’s also not important to be interested in avant garde dance; this is so beautifully executed that it should seduce anyone and everyone.

Set against an original soundtrack by Air, the French duo who label their work ‘tasty experimental music’, Near Life Experience is a hypnotic series of provocative performances: male and female bodies intertwine, sometimes in big black knickers and stylish twisted white shirts, sometimes semi-naked; they create human sculptures; they love and they reject. Sometimes they dance, with a mesmerising fluidity, to no music at all and the silence somehow makes the moves seem more poetic.

Otherwise Air have created a perfect soundtrack of distorted keyboards and violins, acoustic guitars and dreamy electro for Ballet Preljocaj to explore each other’s bodies in a sensual and occasionally erotic manner. At just 80 minutes, Near Life Experience refuses to be self-indulgent. Instead, it is a celebration of modern dance.