Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Seven lessons learned from Wayne McGregor | Random Dance

1. The human torso is a fifth limb, and it's made of bones and rubber.
2. An evening-length dance work can consist almost entirely of big, bold, sweeping, declarative movements, most performed with astonishing speed.
3. The human rib cage is a bellows.
4. Arms and legs are indistinguishable, and all are long.
5. Backs ripple. 
6. For some people, doing a split is like shrugging. This includes a standing/vertical split.
7. We thought we'd seen all the ways a body could bend, twist, stretch, expand and collapse, flex and fold. We were wrong.

Wayne McGregor | Random Dance by Ravi Deepres
Wayne McGregor | Random Dance performed "FAR" last night at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, part of the 2013/14 Northrop Dance series. "FAR" is named for "Flesh in the Age of Reason," a book by British historian and scholar Roy Porter, in which he explains how our understanding of the mind and body changed during the Age of Enlightenment. But you don't have to know a thing about that to be drawn in and fascinated by this dance. It's enough just to watch the bodies move.

"FAR" begins with dancers holding flaming torches while Cecilia Bartoli sings an aria, and ends with a woman lying motionless on the stage, alone in the dark. In between, dancers are solo, in pairs, in groups, sometimes as many as all ten at once, and the electronic soundscape by Australian composer Ben Frost pounds and hums and growls. The dancers are men and women, birds, beasts, insects, aliens walking toward us down the gangplank of their spaceship, against the light, like stick figures. Their movements are graceful and contorted, sinuous, sensuous, visceral and mathy, sometimes warm and familiar, sometimes strange and cold. And very fast. So fast you don't see an arm, but the wide, flesh-colored trail of an arm. Behind the dancers, a large panel of lights rises and lowers. The lights blink as we like to imagine the neural synapses do in our brains. Digital numbers count up and down rapidly. The lights shine like galaxies and single bright stars. The dancers swoop and glide, leap and crawl, jerk, shiver, tangle and separate. Is there a story, a narrative arc, a message? I don't try to find one. It's enough just to watch the bodies move.

Modern dance can be daunting, especially if you think you have to understand it to enjoy it. In that way, it's a lot like jazz. In "FAR," McGregor and his dancers do the heavy thinking and lifting, and for us, watching is enough.

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