Random Dance

I had been looking forward to seeing Wayne McGregor’s new performance FAR since I saw his company of dancers rehearsing a couple of weeks ago – when invited by DK who is collaborating with him on a cognitive science project. I had been inches from their writhing, flicking bodies, fluidly transitioning between shapes and forms that defy our normal perceptions and understandings of the body.

I was enraptured then. But I was ecstatic now – watching their live show being performed just for one night at the Brighton Dome – a magnificent stage for a majestic spectacle. Even this morning long after the curtains had come down I am still in a state of suspended animation.

Words cannot describe the absolute beauty and depth of the 70-minute piece. Everyone in the audience was breathless and transfixed by the dancers, the lighting, the set, the music, the body-mind language, the metamorphoses, the flux between deft touches and powerful thundering rips across the stage. One moment a dancer seemed to defy gravity and do a single handstand, with the rest of her limbs looking like a cross, the next another dancer is pattering his fingertips delicately across another one’s arched skeleton-defined body, like gentle waves. Such flowing movements were simply divine…

I wanted it to go on and on and on – in the way one plays a track endlessly on discovering it resonates addictively with your inner self. It surpassed any modern/contemporary dance I have seen on every dimension (and I have been to many).

I later read David Jays review called ‘Unpeeling the Layers’ in the programme and I simply cannot match his eulogizing eloquence. It is in itself a dance of words written against a monograph photo of the set – very clever.

“they throw themselves into whiplash spins, let waves ebb through their necks, build counter-intuitive curves and angle into limb and spine.”

“buttocks jut outwards while knees swivel inwards; a pulse skedaddles down a limb yet changes direction at the joint.”

“Everything was up for grabs, and that’s very much McGregor’s own inquisitive approach to the world, wide-eyed and curious.”

David Jays writes about the inspiration for the piece interspersed with words from the great man himself. The piece draws from Roy Porter’s book ‘Flesh in the Age of Reason’ (FAR) – all about the 18th century explorations of the body, mind and soul – where new medical discoveries challenged the philosophical thinking of the day about emotion and thought. The beginning of the Enlightenment – and this is what Wayne uses as his starting point to unpeel the layers of creativity and explore physicality and the mind-body relationship.

What David Jays doesn’t mention in his review is anything about the larger than life set – a huge 100 foot long white mattress-looking ambient display, embedded with an array of white neon lights, that dominates the back of the stage and foregrounds the dancers – and is raised above them as they start the piece. It was developed by rAndom International at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in Troy, New York.

It works brilliantly, as an essential and interactive ingredient; synching with the dancers, providing pyrotechnics one moment and then a sky studded with shooting stars, the next; other times echoing Muybridge still shutters of body forms, always lighting the stage and dancers in magical ways. The dancers seem to disappear and reappear instantaneously behind and in front of it like molten drops. It is a truly remarkable piece of design, technology and engineering. Puts my research into ambient displays and behavior completely in the shadow.

What more can I say, other than Wayne is a genius.

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