McGregor Curates Fascinating Programme of Eight Dance Works

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Leafcutter John, Max Baillie, Random Works: Wayne McGregor and Random Dance Company, Kings Place, London, 21.9.2013  (JO’D)

Cultivate a Quiet Joy

Choreography: Fukiko Takase
Dancer:                Mbulelo Ndabeni

Choreography: Alexander Whitley
Dancers:              Marina Rodríguez Hernández, Alexander Whitley

Choreographer:    Anna Nowak
Dancers:                   Louis McMiller, Marina Rodríguez Hernández
Video Projection:  Rhiannon Leyland

The Keeper
Choreography, Direction Edit  Camera:   Jessica Wright, Morgann Runacre-Temple
Dancers:  Jack Jones, Jane Magan, Kieran Stoneley, Katherine Kingston, Agiliki Gouvii, Simon Lindsay
Lighting: Gareth Brown

Choreographer: Robert Binet
Dancers:                 Travis Clausen-Knight, Anna Nowak

Choreographer: Travis Clausen-Knight
Dancers:                 Emma Fisher, Ellen Yilma, Viola Vicini

Choreographer:  Michael-John Harper
Dancer:                   Catarina Carvalho

Vuong 10
Choreographers:      Catarina Carvalho, Nina Kov
Dancers:                      Catarina Carvalho, Michael-John Harper


Composer/Electronics:        Leafcutter John
Composer/Viola:                    Max Baillie
Clarinet:                                      Timothy Orpen
Lighting Design/Technical Director:          Christopher Charles


‘Curated’ by Wayne McGregor (who was appointed a CBE for his Services to Dance in 2011), this hour-long programme presents eight short works (one of them on film) by young choreographers and choreographer/dancers. The music is provided by experimental composer Leafcutter John and two musicians from the Aurora Orchestra, who are all seated on a gallery above the stage. Employing a range of familiar and less familiar instruments, the music continues between the dances (which are not applauded until the very end) thereby conferring a satisfying sense of cohesion on the event.

From the moment that dancer Mbulelo Ndabeni steps out, barefoot and bare-chested, onto the stage to perform the solo Cultivate a Quiet Joy, the members of the Wayne McGregor | Random Dance company fill the rather inhospitable space around them with their living presence. Sleek and flexible, with the control of balance and of their own bodies that ballet dancers have, they combine the rapid, twisting motions of contemporary dance with the leg extensions, entrechats and ronds de jambe of the classical vocabulary. Four of the pieces are duets for a male and female dancer. These may refer to ballet’s pas de deux, but their tone is often restless and rough-edged. In the work by Alexander Whitley, the woman jolts the man’s head with her thigh. Robert Binet creates a more lyrical atmosphere in his piece, but the dancers are left gazing at each other across a distance at the end, in mutual incomprehension. In Anna Nowak’s V3, the man makes bird-like movements with his arms, while the woman appears to be swimming. The bodies on the stage most harmoniously united are those of the three female dancers in Travis Clausen-Knight’s linear. Theirs may, however, be the harmony of the ‘post-human’. With vertical and horizontal lines of black tape stuck to their bodies, the women execute a succession of machine-like movements (12 o’clock extensions included). They also transmit a sense of enjoyment as they do so. The penultimate work of the programme focuses on the distorted and exaggerated facial gestures of a dancer who seems to be trying to communicate with the audience from the inside an electronic device. She is joined by another dancer for a final male-female duet in which they explore the workings of each other’s bodies like people who had never seen, or touched, another body before. At the end they are (touchingly) seated opposite one another, rubbing only their cheeks and heads together as if physical contact itself is something that has to be rediscovered.

The filmed work, The Keeper (by Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple), which forms a sort of humorous interlude in the middle of the event, comes when Leafcutter John’s music is at its most inventive. The amplified sound of a piece of paper being scrunched and torn is still in the air when a man suddenly leaps onto the white screen at the back of stage. What follows is a piece of breakneck editing, involving a thief, a silver teapot and some spoons, that does Georges Méliès proud.

John O’Dwyer