Sunday 17 March 2024

Dance: Dazzling sights and sounds

Company Wayne McGregor
direction and choreography Wayne McGregor
dancers Winnie Asawakanjanakit, Rebecca Bassett-Graham, Naia Bautista, Jordan James Bridge, Chia-Tu Hsu, Hannah Joseph, Jasiah Marshall, Salomé Pressac, Salvatore De Simone, Mariano Zamora Gonzalez
dramaturgy Uzma Hameed
Sadler's Wells, London • 12-16.Mar.24

The almost absurdly talented, groundbreaking Company Wayne McGregor returned to Sadler's Wells in March with two shows...

Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography (v95)
music Jlin • set Ben Cullen Williams
lighting Lucy Carter • costumes Aitor Throup

Each performance of this piece is different, as a selection of 23 individual segments are sequenced by an algorithm based on McGregor's own DNA sequence. So the overall show takes on different shapes and moods as the production progresses. The choreography is physically demanding, and the dancers perform this with an astonishing liquidity under a suspended lighting rig. As the show progresses, there's a powerful sense of yearning and breathlessness, which makes the performance forward-looking and literally alive.

Each piece is distinct, made up of solos, duets and group numbers that are eye-catching and powerfully involving. Movement echoes and confronts, responding and breaking out, continually finding new expressions in specific settings and roles. The music is a mix of instruments, sounds and rhythms that vary the mood and propel the action, often with a rumbling bass that vibrates the audience's bones. Meanwhile, changing lights, costumes and smoke add distinctive touches to each piece.

McGregor's choreography has a floaty sensibility that's often dazzling, smoothly combining modern and classical movement. It's so physically expressive, that the pieces seem to bleed into each other. Highlights include the arena-like Instinct, with its almost martial arts sensibility; World, with some stunning back-lighting trickery; and Sleep, as the ceiling frame drops to the floor while the dancers crawl underneath. Along the way, there are moments of romantic swooniness, arch posturing and dreamy sensuality. Some of it is fast and powerfully energetic, other segments are slow and meditative. And because of the way each performance is assembled, you can never see the same show twice.

photos by Ravi Deepres • 12.Mar.24

UniVerse: A Dark Crystal Odyssey
music Joel Cadbury • film design Ravi Deepres
lighting Lucy Carter • costumes Philip Delamore, Alex Box
spoken word artist Isaiah Hull

Based on the 1982 Jim Henson film, this fantastical tale unfolds with fairy tale imagery and technical wizardry. It's an immersive, haunting saga, with big ideas about good and evil and a strong sense of ecology. While following the plot itself is virtually impossible, this is a show that washes over us with often spectacular stagecraft, a skilful combination of movement, music, costumes and projections. It's a gorgeous shifting tale that becomes mesmerising and hypnotic as it shimmers and prowls through sometimes jarring tonal shifts.

The show opens with an extended film clip, a fish-eyed exploration of a cluttered library that hints at the folklore and legends that will swirl throughout what follows. When dancers take the stage, they are joined by a gigantic 3D projected teleporting fish that looks very cool indeed. This interaction between projections and performance continues. And the costumes add to the atmosphere, often covering the performers' faces, evoking images of iconic figures or altering their physicality. The choreography is athletic and often acrobatic, creating lovely shapes and emotional intent.

The soundtrack features an elaborate musical mix, plus spoken word pieces exploring climate change themes. All of this combines in a way that's seriously impressive, especially the visual audacity in the lighting, colour and iconography. And these gifted performers throw themselves into each scenario with expressive abandon. So even if it begins to feel a bit random and impenetrable, there's so much beauty in both their solo turns and their interaction with each other that we can't look away.

For information, SADLER'S WELLS >

photos by Andrej Uspenski • 15.Mar.24

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