Wayne McGregor/Random Dance, Chiasso, Switzerland

Written by:
John Sullivan
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Random Dance members in a scene from Wayne McGregor’s “FAR”
Photo courtesy of Random Dance


Wayne McGregor / Random Dance
Concept, direction, and choreography by Wayne McGregor
Music by Ben Frost
Costume design by Moritz Junge
Set design by Random International
Lighting design by Lucy Carter
Dancers: Catarina Carvalho, Davide Di Pretoro, Michael-John Harper, Agnès López Rio, Louis McMiller, Paolo Mangiola, Daniela Neugebauer, Anna Nowak, Alexander Whitley, and Jessica Wright
Cinema Teatro di Chiasso; Chiasso, Switzerland
May 14, 2011
(Note: After touring the U.K. and Europe, Random Dance will perform “FAR” at Montclair State University in New Jersey, Oct. 20-23, 2011)

Wayne McGregor’s “FAR” explores the far reaches of human articulation: both in terms of how we intellectually communicate concepts and in terms of how we physically move. The polyphonic sensibilities of this remarkable hour-long work immediately coalesce with the opening: four women, each holding a flaming torch, watch a duet between a man and a woman. The implication that this is a reconstructed origin story is unmistakable.

For the duet, the operatic vocal score is an excellent choice, especially because it is distinct from the rest of Ben Frost’s atmospheric and pulsating electronic score, which drives the dancers throughout. And while reconstruction of origins certainly features thematically at the start of “FAR,” the extraordinary opening duet quickly gives way to a fully formed alternate techno world.

An exposed stage uses boom lights that raise and lower behind, and above and below, a huge white rectangular light installation across the full back of the stage. This light installation continually changes during “FAR,” but it never dominates nor distracts. Lucy Carter’s incredible lighting design (clearly visible in the video excerpt below) always focuses the eye where needed.

On the back set—the light installation—lights flash in opposition to, or in coordination with, movement phrases, highlighting McGregor’s open, unhinged use of joint mobility. Rather than looking like hyperextensions, these extra-articulations convey a stark openness. For example, in our ho-hum world, the hip is simply a ball-and-socket joint; in McGregor’s kinetic world, the hip is a window into what the body really can accomplish. In “FAR,” bodies have been peeled out of a three-dimensional reality and are transformed in a multidimensional reality. The dancers are still human, but innovatively so.

Additionally, McGregor creates an alternate world of movement, and multidimensional realities, by placing bodies in sharp, stark relief. Often dancers move as if on a perpendicular wall frieze, which makes them look like stick figures. But “stick” implies gangly moments—not the case here. The movement is neither awkward nor anguished, although lines are broken (say, at the wrist or the hip), and these broken images convey an otherworldly difference.

I’ve read that McGregor has a unique movement vocabulary, but that’s really an understatement of what this choreographer does with the human form. McGregor combines his unique use of the human body with a fully intentioned, and fully realized, collaborative production. All elements (lights, set, costumes, music) function seamlessly together and are heightened by the propulsive, almost relentless, quality of the dancing.

The dancers in Random Dance are extraordinarily adept at working in McGregor’s horizontal planes. There’s not a lot of jumping in “FAR”; however, several times a dancer faces straight front, as if preparing to turn, and then suddenly jumps, spins around in the air, and lands in an open fourth position on the floor—again facing straight front. This happens so quickly that I was glad McGregor wisely has several dancers repeat the jump, spin, fall at different moments. Notable for her calm articulation, Agnès López Rio perfectly renders McGregor’s vision of an undulating body with a strong, centered core. Her body spirals in on itself almost like a corkscrew and then spirals open again.

After solo, duet, and ensemble work, the opening duet is bookended with an ending duet, albeit a more languid one, exploring the complexities of relationships rather than the possibilities of relationships, as in the opening duet. The electronic score zaps the two dancers, causing them to come undone; enigmatically, the man loses the woman, who remains onstage, lying still. She has returned from McGregor’s alternate world back to the earth.

Renée E. D’Aoust

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