Wayne McGregor | Random Dance – Random Works, from 10 Choreographers – London

Emma Fisher, Ellen Yilma, Viola Vicini in <I>Linear</I> by Travis Clausen-Knight.<br />© Foteini Christofilopoulou. (Click image for larger version)
Emma Fisher, Ellen Yilma, Viola Vicini in Linear by Travis Clausen-Knight.
© Foteini Christofilopoulou. (Click image for larger version)

Wayne McGregor | Random Dance
Random Works

Choreographers: Robert Binet, Catarina Carvalho, Travis Clausen-Knight, Michael-John Harper, Nina Kov, Anna Nowak, Morgann Runacre-Temple, Fukiko Takase, Alexander Whitley, Jessica Wright
London, King’s Place Hall One
20 September 2013

Gallery of pictures by Foteini Christofilopoulou
Thanks to all for allowing us to shot.

To name Wayne McGregor as a key influence on a generation of young choreographers is a king-sized understatement. When McGregor burst onto the UK dance scene 20 years ago, his innovative movement style was like nothing that had ever been seen before – serpentine dislocations, shoulders and pelves shooting off in opposite directions, the body desconstructed in front of our eyes and rebuilt as something not entirely human-looking. In the two decades since McGregor’s arrival jolted the dance world awake, an army of upcoming dancemakers has emulated the physically articulate Random style without ever quite matching the master for the sheer audacity of his ideas. It’s scarcely surprising that the young choreographers whom McGregor has influenced include his own dancers, six of whom are featured on this programme of new works.

Random Works is the first dance programme to be performed at King’s Place, a space behind King’s Cross station that more usually functions as a concert hall and which boasts the unique distinction of also being home to the Guardian and Observer newspapers. This means that half the signs in the building are written in the distinctive Guardian Egyptian font, and interview rooms and meeting spaces are visible from the main foyer, lending the evening an odd air of being encased in the Friday Review section. The stage in the hall itself is wide and shallow – not an ideal size or shape for dance – and the technical team have obvious problems lighting the eight short pieces that make up the evening.

King’s Place podcast about Random Works – 10 mins.

Those eight pieces are presented by ten choreographers – the six company dancers mentioned above and four friends of the company, including Royal Ballet Choreographic Associate Robert Binet who previously created Life’s Witness on the company for its 20th birthday celebrations at the Linbury Studio last year. That programme featured an all-male triptych of choreographers; this evening offers an even balance of men to women with five of each on the programme.

The most successful pieces of the evening are – perhaps not coincidentally – those least directly indebted to McGregor’s movement volcabulary and compositional style. Fukiko Takase’s Cultivate A Quiet Joy, a solo for Mbulelo Ndabeni, opens the evening and is as quietly joyful as the title suggests. Dressed in loose trousers, Ndabeni rolls sensuously through liquid hips on his way to the floor and back again, scuttling sideways into elegant, long-limbed balances that marry strength and grace with hints of African footwork. Takase’s short piece has a fantastic earthiness to it, and Ndabeni performs with a strong sense of being connected to the ground, sliding towards it, rolling across it and rising from it. The choreographer makes excellent use of her performer’s physical capabilities, managing to suggest the essential and the primal with her thoughtful choice of movement.

Mbulelo Ndabeni in <I>Cultivate a quiet joy</I> by Fukiko Takase.<br />© Foteini Christofilopoulou. (Click image for larger version)
Mbulelo Ndabeni in Cultivate a quiet joy by Fukiko Takase.
© Foteini Christofilopoulou. (Click image for larger version)

The evening’s other stand-out is Travis Clausen-Knight’s trio for three female dancers, linear. Again as the name suggests, this strongly gestural piece places the three bodies in a variety of linear configurations. linear has simplicity on its side; there is much that is inherently interesting about arranging and rearranging bodies in space, and Clausen-Knight find some inventive ways to connect and disconnect his cast. Arms meet and break apart, legs shoot up to the diagonal, wrists roll and torsos hinge at the hip; the idea is simple but the movement is rich and well-structured, and the result is very satisfying to watch.

Accompanied by a newly-commissioned score created and performed by Timothy Orpen (clarinet), Max Baillie (viola) and electronic artist Leafcutter John (MacBook, crumpled paper), the remainder of the evening is as brimful of McGregor-lite jutting, jabbing and snaking as any dance training centre you care to name. Some of it is rather well performed – Binet’s duet [Untitled] has lots of stretchy legs and some attractive doublework – some of it could have used a little more time in the studio, and some might have benefitted more from a serious edit or two. Jessica Wright and Morgan Runn Runacre-Temple’s short film Paper Tears at least had a sense of humour to it; with its reverse motion and time lapses, it looked like nothing so much as the repeated scene from Spaced where Brian explains his art…

Brian’s art, Spaced (Channel 4) from Lise Smith on Vimeo.

It’s not hard to imagine why, when making their own works, the dancers of Random would borrow their style from the man who works with them every day of the year. Random Works left me hoping that next time, more of them will make use of his substance, too.

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