Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

Mary Brennan, four stars

IN A stilled and expectant auditorium, the opening notes of Stravinsky’s Les Noces still come as a shock. If his score, alongside Bronislava Nijinska’s 1923 ballet stylising Russian peasant marriage traditions,were harbingers of modernist ideas, then Colette Sadler’s Ritualia is a tremendous salute to that radical energy. Her one-act piece for Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) - premiered in this touring double bill - weaves imagery from the original ballet into a 21st century realm of self-aware androgyny where how you look, move, or dress makes for a marriage between individual style and extreme fashion.

Nijinska’s hair-braiding motifs morph into a choreography of inter-twining limbs where the dancers, encased in black unisex body-skins, cluster in love-knots, clasp pale hands in bonds of subversion before separating - like traveling ink-marks - into a calligraphy of sometimes elegant, sometimes erotic poses. Meanwhile, upstage, a lone figure is shrouded in a tangle of hair that masks gender characteristics. This ‘Bride’ sets a trend in motion. The other dancers will re-appear in elaborate wigs, piled pompadour high, atop lithe bodies that - silhouetted in the red glow of Samuli Laine’s lighting design - are like totemic objects in rituals of sinuous-sensual display. As for the Bride - Galliano would surely be happy to own the fantastical wedding dress made of hair!

Glaswegian dance-maker Sadler, now based in Berlin, has melded together a fascinating web of cultural influences to give SDT a visually striking, astutely clever, witty addition to their repertoire. Ritualia imaginatively complements Botis Seva’s similarly subversive TuTuMucky where the dancers, in unisex costumes of bedraggled tutus, question aspects of cultural elitism. Classical ballet techniques descend into robotic sequences that only come alive when hit amidships by a feral strain of hip-hop - altogether a mighty challenge for the dancers. They excel at every turn.