When Wayne McGregor’s Atomos came to the stage in 2013, critics called it ‘thrilling’, ‘ravishingly textured,’ and ‘extraordinary’. Under Lucy Carter’s ambient, pixellated lighting, the stunning dancers of McGregor’s Random Dance Company played out a piece laden with ambitious collaborations. Concerned with atoms, and the breaking down of things into their smallest constituent parts, Atomos shows off the many reasons McGregor has such a big role in current contemporary dance.
Inspiration apparently came from two sources. The first is an unnamed 80s sci-fi film, which McGregor reduced to a series of colours. A computer mapped movement in the film, and McGregor translated this to his dancers.
The second source was a collaboration with tech-fashion team Studio XO (purveyors of ‘digital skins and body architectures’). They monitored biological states of action and concentration in the dancers, then mapped this data onto actual structures. The Random dancers then experimented with these sheets of plastic and rib-like cages to create movement.
If that process sounds weird and cerebral, it’s nothing short of what we’ve come to expect from McGregor. His process is all about prompting the body into action via new paths, and it makes him a gripping character to watch in action. But don’t let it put you off the performance - the really brain-freezing stuff is kept for creation, leaving his soaring kaleidoscope of movement to take over the stage.
McGregor’s vocabulary is unique in being so unlike anything else it’s instantly recognisable, yet he’s capable of turning out hours, days of movement without ever repeating himself.
Never was a choreographer so exhaustively porous to ideas from outside dance. But in Atomos there’s unexpected pleasure in the unusually classical forms. Sure, McGregor subverts a ballet step wherever he finds it. But the years as Resident Choreographer at the Royal Ballet seem to be getting into his blood, and classical lines are more evident here than in previous works.
Lighting designer Lucy Carter, who has collaborated on all but one of McGregor’s works, contributes much to the atmosphere, dividing the stage with red, blue and green, and trapping dancers in squares of light. The music is a mutinously dark score by composing duo A Winged Victory for the Sullen; and a vanishing screen reflects projections by Ravi Deepres of everything from ants to industrial landscapes.
McGregor is always described as ‘bold’ and ‘cutting-edge’ and, of course, those appellations are true. But more than anything he is a dance-maker of limitless imagination, his movements an incredible fusion of twisted lyricism and spectacular, hyperactive power. For this, and for a company of dancers that have few rivals for athleticism, the return of Atomos is not to be missed.
McGregor will be providing another of the exciting ballets on in London this year: find out more here.
|What||Atomos: Random Dance Company, Sadler's Wells|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Roseberry Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
13 Feb 15 – 14 Feb 15, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Website||Click here to book via the Sadler's Wells website|