Friday, 6 November 2009

Limen, world premier, Wayne McGregor, Royal Ballet

Is Wayne McGregor the dance-maker Michael Clark would have been if his career hadn't been stalled by drugs? I ask this because in McGregor's latest work, Limon, which had its world premier on Tuesday at the Opera House, the crack team of the Royal's first rank - Leanne Benjamin, Yuhui Choe (a new Miyako Yoshida?), Eric Underwood and Edward Watson - were given the thrusting hips, off balance precision and stop-start robotic movement which are pure Clark.

Yet, McGregor's aesthetic is to see his dancers as cells in some larger computer hard drive or as refined human machines given off-centre movements. His art is as much about collaborations with hi-tech scientists, composers and artists as it is about dance. And his choreography dismantles a classically trained dancer's urge to create pleasing physical lines with her body. Whereas for Clark it's about stretching ballet's refinement until it breaks - a butterfly in a vice. His work is often danced to the blasting rock of The Fall or Lou Reed. Either way, their effects are similar.

It's interesting to note that Clark's training was classical, while McGregor's was contemporary. Somehow they've found a similar dance language that straddles the middle ground. Without the lost years of Clark's troubled life, McGregor - who doesn't even drink coffee - is building a huge catalogue of work punctuated with ground-breaking collaborations. How much more could Clark have given the world without drugs? Though it's good to see him at the top of his game with his recent new work seen in Edinburgh and London.

Back to Limen - with Moritz Junge's neon bright costumes, Lucy Carter's impressive colour block lighting with artist Tatsuo Miyajima's video and set design, there's an overload of visual pleasure too. It's like Clark, minus the dark, troubled heart. A word to McGregor - with the lighted scrim at the start and the darkened lit curtain at the end - don't let your high-concept pyrotechnics push the dance to the wings. It's what we've really come to see.

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