Company Wayne McGregor & Paris Opera Ballet
Tree of Codes
London, Sadler’s Wells
7 March 2017
Gallery of pictures by Foteini Christofilopoulou
Wayne McGregor’s Tree of Codes is I think the best piece he’s done since Chroma 10 years ago for the Royal Ballet. Codes is a very different work and it shows McGregor as an out-and-out showman who dazzles us senseless with design, music, dancers and dance. I’m not sure if he really planned it that way, but I’ll take it every time.
Tree of Codes takes its name from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book/artifact that was based on Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles. I’ve not read/inspected either but Foer’s book famously recasts the Schulz by cutting holes and sculpting it to reveal new meanings – or new meanings to some, I’m sure. McGregor’s take doesn’t really seem to have any meaningful story that I can discern, but it does seem to pick up on the idea of burrowing through dimensions, bending and twisting how you see things and and generally playing with all your senses at the same time. It’s not so much a dance show, more a high-tech Son et lumière.
Central to it all is Olafur Eliasson visual design which couples bending mirrors and see-through/solid walls to give us multiple perspectives on the action. Sometimes dancers dance with themselves and sometimes multiple echoes of others. I don’t technically know how it’s done but I do know it’s magical and the best use of technology since I saw Preljocaj’s Helikopter with the live video cleverness of Holger Förterer some 15 years ago. Many try but few thumpingly deliver. The rock score of Jammie xx (part of The xx) also thrills and accessibly punctuates the action.
It goes without saying that Wayne McGregor’s own dancers (formally known as Random Dance and now Company Wayne McGregor) are strong and charismatic, but here they are joined by some dancers from Paris Opera Ballet (POB), who have also recently presented Codes. The mix of full-on contemporary and ballet training works well in McGregor’s hands and the eye is constantly darting around as many get their feature moment during the 80-minute show. But in a sea of gorgeous talent one has to mention POB Etoile Marie-Agness Gillot for her stunningly lanky technique – seemingly both pin-sharp and loose at the same time.
At the end there was a well-earned standing ovation. And it was nice to exit a McGregor show having been wowed pure and simple and not going “Yes, but… what on earth was that all about?” and feeling you were missing something.