March 1, 2018
The Joyce Theatre was bursting with dance VIPS on the opening night of Company Wayne McGregor in anticipation of an inspiring evening. Having been thrilled with Alvin Ailey’s performance of McGregor’s Chroma, I too was pumped for the show. Early touted as a cerebral virtuoso, McGregor is the resident choreographer of The Royal Ballet, and a globe trotting artist, setting ballets on prestigious companies, such as New York City Ballet, and working in films and theatre.
An example of his writing about Chroma gives you a sense of his communicative gifts -
“Often in my own choreographies I have actively conspired to disrupt the spaces in which the body performs. Each intervention, usually some kind of addition, is an attempt to see the context of the body in a new or alien way.” Notice the words particularly germane to understanding McGregor - disrupt, Intervention, alien.
His 80 minute offering, Autobiography which premiered at Sadler’s Wells in London on October 4, 2017 began with a compelling male solo. His ten dancers are a lithe, androgynous group, all capable of 180 degree battements and rag doll collapses. By the end of the performance though, my eyes hurt from the light, designed by Lucy Carter, that often shone directly into the audience forcing you to squint or simply close your eyes. Whether solo, duet, or group, everyone seemed repetitive, a leg thrust to the ceiling and then a shift of a body part - whether a head, or muscle in the upper back. Given that McGregor set out to write his life story in Autobiography, perhaps he is (inadvertently?) making a public confession that he is blocked.
Towards the close of the performance, the music assembled by Jlin (which included music by Hitdur Gudnadottir, Zelienople, Arcangelo Corelli, Carsten Nicolai, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Max Richter) offered a grinding sound during which a man said “You don’t want to hurt me” and then after 30 seconds of more grinding, a woman saying defiantly, “Oh yes, I do!” This almost childish exchange makes McGregor seem a bit wistful. However, the set of downward pointing triangles by Ben Cullen Williams that was lowered from the ceiling for one section was anything but. Perhaps we are to empathize with McGregor as a fellow victim of oppressive times.
His excellent dancers are: Rebecca Bassett-Graham, Jordan James Bridge, Travis Clausen-Knight, Louis McMiller, Daniela Neugebauer, Jacob O’Connell, James Pett, Fukiko Takase, Po-lin Tung, and Jessica Wright. Costumes are by Aitor Throup.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers