Verve, Northern Contemporary Dance School's postgraduate dance company, celebrates the lithe vitality and youthful enthusiasm of professional dancers at the dawn of their careers. The program is varied, presenting pure movement, conceptual and theatrical pieces, using a wide mix of sound from classical to popular culture. Mark Baker and Luke Hayward’s lighting design is a striking and complimentary feature throughout.

Conceptually, the strongest piece of the evening, Night Time, was choreographed by Frauke Requardt.

Smoke fills the stage as one dancer is held in the air reaching toward a single beam of light. Right away, this sets up a world of wistful innocence. Duets pass through passages of luminosity, and picture frames of tenderness as the dancers momentarily brush cheeks. Movement is precise and uncluttered, with symbiotic fluidity, heightened by Valentina Golfieri’s costuming. Delicate lace and wafting chiffon merge together, offering different nuances as the light bounces from one material to another.

Midway through, the dancers pull, tug and fling one another, alerting us to a more subversive darker world. Textures shift to leathers and lace, wild flying hair, ganglike groupings and more intricate and sharp gestural movement. The tone is now controversial: heavy, languid sounds pump out the beat and become progressively drunken, discordant and crashing until eventually the world disappears, the image of youthful innocence is fleeting.

Six dancers ‘make their bones’ in Angus Balberine’s surreal theatrical delirium, Instructions to the Animal. Film noir tinged with David Lynch, the piece opens with a darkly-lit stage silhouetting a man in a cowboy hat. Satin red shoes are tossed on stage, suggesting a macrocosm that is the antithesis of the Wizard of Oz, without wishes or rainbows. A dancer gesticulates ironically, saying “I want this place to sparkle”. Long black gloves are repeatedly taken on and off, ecstatically happy smiles suggest desperately that ‘the show must go on’: There are small references to Rita Hayworth throughout.

Dancers pose, in an ever-advancing charade of oneupmanship; cinematic tableaus ravel and unravel, moving from sinister to euphoric. A dancer asks us in Italian and then in English, “Is there a God?”

Shamran Nazeri and the F**k Buttons twin eastern dirge with metallic propulsive sounds which surge to euphoric crescendos. The action builds to hysteria and extreme oddity with sections of more frenzied and thrusting movement. Meanwhile, a dancer parades in a scarlet satin dress as red light fills the stage, leaving the audience free to get lost in this chaotic, beguiling piece.

Spoken words are at times inaudible due to a lack of projection but the desperate need to be somebody – to ‘sparkle’ still resonates. In the words of Rita Hayworth: ”You have to have that little statue in Hollywood, or else you`re nothing!

James Wilton’s Resurgence is an athletic and well-crafted pure movement piece, set to a soundtrack of chanting music from Om. Steady, weighty, deep bass vibrations palpate the space. Quick movements harness power and speed and complex choreography amplifies the physicality of seven dancers as they embrace the exciting yet smooth quality of Capoeira. In a myriad of duets and trios, they chase and pull one another into challenging sequences of lifts, rolls and reaches: diving, spinning and hurling themselves around the stage, breakdancing into inverted spins.

The meaning of this work is puzzling, as dancers look downward at points and one dancer deliberately closes his eyes. The reason for this never emerges. On the whole, Resurgence extends impressive movement material, but it is hardly cutting-edge.

Choreographed by Ben Wright, Shuffle is a light hearted play on the word shuffle: a randomized order of events, a mashup of songs and clothing. Featuring a relatable playlist of mainly pop songs including Peggy Lee and Deelite, the full company proceeds in a disorderly way, clothed in unmatching apparel, exploring different formations, games, and dance movement.

Superficially quirky and entertaining, but ultimately flawed, the choreography, like the word ‘shuffle’, is unspecific, unconsidered and aimless. Much of the movement is unresponsive, and does not fully match, or oppose the music; frustratingly, there are moments of potential which are not realised. This may be a conceptual tool but ultimately the scattered result is not compelling.

The company of dancers are impressively vibrant and skilful as an ensemble. They cope well with complex material and demonstrate versatility, precision and admirable technique. A choreographic rework of all pieces earlier in the day, due to two injured dancers, saw slight hesitancy during some unison material in the first piece but this is understandable; Danilo Caruso, in particular, shows fierce commitment as an accomplished performer. Lovers of mainstream contemporary dance will not be disappointed.