Missing/Bird's Eye View, Dance Base

Four stars

Sluts of Possession, Dance Base

Three stars

There's a darkly thoughtful strand running through this year's Desert Island programme at Dance Base. Missing (choreographed by Douglas Thorpe for his Mad Dogs Dance Theatre) has that melancholy twist. As Ruth Janssen and Riccardo Meneghini - both ex-members of Scottish Dance Theatre - grapple with the loss of a child, their shared bewilderment and pain actually pulls them apart. Anger erupts, expressed in a torment of pushes and pulls, lifts and restraints that threaten to send both dancers crashing off-balance.

If Janssen and Meneghini have the full and expert measure of these moves, they also have the ability to express the underlying emotions without histrionics - and that's crucial, because for all it's full-on physicality, Missing has a nuanced, poetic side. It's there, in the path of rustling autumnal leaves that is always underfoot, and in the fleeting moment when Meneghini's sweater becomes a shadow-child, skipping between them as if they're a happy family on a walk in the park.

Perhaps Simona Bertozzi spotted their like as she created her solo, Bird's Eye View, and used that everyday context, along with a wealth of others, to explore how movement - in humans, animals, birds - is a statement of action and reaction, triggered by circumstances. The emphasis here is on the detailing and articulation of Bertozzi's lithe, lean body-lines, so costuming is terse - a leotard and a flying helmet - the rest is all delivered through her strength and stamina. Hers is a gruelling process, as she shifts the recognisable elements of bird-like behaviour into nods and struts that are distinctly human. It's one of those works where nothing happens - but everything is happening if you watch closely. Then, you're rewarded with the stark intense beauty of Bertozzi's thrillingly accomplished performance.

There's an academic-anthropological thrust to Rosie Kay's newly premiered Sluts of Possession, a two-hander in which she and Guilherme Miotto get under the skin of primal rituals, trance dance and the altered states that ensue. Kay's source material is from the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford but the dance-work itself - for all the archive footage that is a flickering backdrop in the gloom - has echoes of earlier enthusiasms for exploring acts of abandon. Here, the surrendering of bodies to impulse, be it a driving rhythm or a sexual passion, goes native: Kay and Miotto have tribal face-paint as a counterpoint to tight-fitting modern tops'n'leggings, their judderings, gyratings and poundings writhe in the direction of primitive cultures, albeit as recorded by Western eyes.

It gets hot and sweaty, but we remain tourists gawping at prowess, without really understanding where the piece is taking us - or where those being 'possessed' on-stage have gone.

Both shows run until August 17