Los Angeles Dance Review: FAR (Wayne McGregor | Random Dance at Royce Hall)

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by Tony Frankel on January 25, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


The Los Angeles premiere of British choreographer Wayne McGregor’s FAR opened at Royce Hall last night, and you are advised to cancel all plans and catch the last performance tonight. The one-hour work eventually overstays its welcome, but up until then it is charismatic, engrossing, mysterious, spellbinding, and truly one of the most unique movement pieces I have ever seen.

Program notes inform us that this innovative expedition into the relationship of mind and movement was inspired by the Age of Enlightenment and 18th-century French philosopher Diderot’s very first set of encyclopedia. The title FAR is taken from Roy Porter’s 2005 Flesh in the Age of Reason, a noteworthy interpretation of one of the most exciting eras of history, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance performs FAR at Royce Hall January 24-25, 2014 as part of the CAP UCLA 2013-2014 seasonone which emphasized reason over tradition. Hence, McGregor’s conception, direction and choreography are used as an investigation into the mechanisms behind body and soul. You may not glean all that from watching this glorious journey into abstraction, but however McGregor developed FAR, his greatest accomplishment is singing the body electric.

The stage is bare except for rAndom International’s monolithic backdrop panel that incorporates Lucy Carter’s lighting design: a series of rotating numerals and elaborate arrays of electronic pulses which plunge and climb like neurons. The taped music by Australian experimental composer Ben Frost begins with a beautiful soprano aria with piano while select dancers walk around with torches, signifying the time before the transition into scientific thought. After that, Frost’s techno-music becomes more driving, destructive and harsh, occasionally evoking funky, mechanical House sounds.

The dancers are consistently communicating, but if there is any emotion to be found, it is in cerebral, hot-headed debates in which opposite forces attempt to win each other over; although from my vantage point in Row P, it was impossible to hear what they were arguing about (this may have been intentional).

Wayne McGregor | Random Dance performs FAR at Royce Hall January 24-25, 2014 as part of the CAP UCLA 2013-2014 seasonWith consistent fluidity, the 10 artists go from solo, duets, and trios to group efforts. This piece is not about individualism so much as it’s about the inspection of balance and symmetry—or lack thereof. It’s remarkable that the primal movement, developed in collaboration with the dancers, can even be memorized, yet these amazing artists flow in and out of each other’s space like puzzle pieces in oil. When not intricately entwining in geometric patterns, they offer rolling, twisting, popping, running, and savage gesticulations. The strenuous, rigorous and demanding movement requires the entire cast to incorporate contortionism, modern dance, acrobatics, and classical moves.

The grotesque, warped images bring to mind a dystopian world of zombies in a night club. One male dancer performed rib extensions that made him appear as a graceful Elephant Man. Backlit by the panel, dancers became silhouetted, strutting, struggling, street-dancing storks, enhancing the animalistic nature of the work.

Wayne McGregor | Random Dance performs FAR at Royce Hall January 24-25, 2014 as part of the CAP UCLA 2013-2014 seasonI was consistently mesmerized, but at precisely 45 minutes, the audience members around me began to squirm, as did I. Just when this 5-star 5-course meal had proved itself satisfying, memorable and once-in-a-lifetime, McGregor begins to add more courses, many of them similar to what we have already witnessed—especially some sharp, geometric, sideways-slashing arm gestures reminiscent of Nijinsky’s L’après-midi d’un faune. It’s unfortunate that this estimable company didn’t get the memo from the Too Much of a Good Thing Department; even the Age of Enlightenment could not sustain itself after a century or so, and had to give way to Romanticism, which emphasized emotion over reason.

Still, the choreography is audacious, abrupt, enigmatic, powerful, swanky, and perfectly illuminates McGregor as “a bona fide science geek” who has studied with cognitive and neuroscientists as motivation for his craetions. But it is the dancers, scantily clad in Moritz Junge’s flesh- and grey-colored costumes, who inspire by showing us what the human body is capable of. FAR is an enlightening dance piece which is thrillingly beyond all reason.

photos by Ravi Deepres

Wayne McGregor | Random Dance
presented by CAP UCLA
Royce Hall at UCLA
scheduled to end on January 25, 2014
for tickets, call 310.825.2101 or visit www.cap.ucla.edu.com

for a fascinating overview of McGregor’s work, visit CAP UCLA
for more info, visit www.RandomDance.org

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