Magazine article The Spectator

Depth to the Dynamics

Magazine article The Spectator

Depth to the Dynamics

Article excerpt

Triple Bill

Royal Opera House

According to a tacitly shared, unwritten code of common professional practice, critics ought not to divulge their opinion before being published. Which is why I felt terribly guilty when, at the end of Wayne McGregor's Infra, I gave my first impressions to a BBC interviewer. True, I did not say that much. Surprised by the camera, I waffled. The sole cogent thing I managed to utter was 'visually stunning'. Which it was. McGregor is indeed an intriguing figure of modern-day dance-making. Unlike some of his contemporaries, who are mainly preoccupied with challenging the ballet idiom, he prefers to focus on how the fivecentury-old art can effectively interact with technological ideas that are not normally associated with it. Instead of challenging the tenets of a well-affirmed vocabulary, McGregor uses those same tenets to explore the extent they can be worked on to suit the almost sci-fi environments which characterise his work. In his choreography, ballet is often, though not exclusively, the starting point for research on theatre-, more than just dance-, making. This is evident in Infra, where the artists' ballet knowledge is used to create shapes, forms and ideas that edge both physically and choreographically on the unthinkable and unbelievable. Had those bodies not been ballet trained, though, the choreography would have not had the same powerful and mind-boggling impact.

In Infra, the action develops below Julian Opie's somewhat overwhelming screen on which computer-generated versions of the acclaimed artist's stylised figures constantly walk from one side to the other. Underneath the screen -- which, I am told, obstructs the view when the ballet is seen from the amphitheatre -- movement seems to follow precise calculations, algorithms and scientific formulae, linked together as if they were segments of an impressively long algebraic equation. As mentioned earlier, the result is visually engaging, but it would be a mistake to claim that all there is to this work is a nice set of dance images -- which is also why I regret coming up with that comment of mine. McGregor's new creation might not be every balletomane's cup of tea, but it certainly stands out for the depth of reasoning that underscores the choreographic construct. …

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