Wayne McGregor/Random Dance.
McGregor/ Random Dance
Theater, Feb. 27
When viewing the ferociously executed movement of the London-based
company Wayne McGregor/Random Dance, one can’t help but feel
energetically charged. There is an uncontainable force to
the physicality and visual impact created by McGregor’s latest
piece Entity. Performed at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s
EMPAC Theater last weekend, Entity is a fierce display
of bodies yearning for resolution.
With a company of nine highly trained artists, McGregor is
able to develop a style that is complex, nuanced and at its
core, improvisational. Through a collectively driven choreographic
process, McGregor invites his dancers to be intimately involved
in their movement choices. However, the end product is cohesive
and precise, with a kinetic style that is consistent throughout.
In the full-length piece Entity, the movement has a
somewhat predatory quality. The dancers reflect animalistic
behavior, stalking and hovering like deranged vultures. At
other times, the movement reveals a reptilian quality of slithers
and glares. The overall vocabulary is as articulate and methodical
as ballet. However, unlike the latter’s preoccupation with
symmetry and beauty, Entity is fraught with seemingly
grotesque and disturbing bodily contortions.
The piece drives forward from one vignette to another, with
neurotic couplings between the dancers. Bodies enter into
one impulsive entanglement after another. In one particular
trio, accompanied by a droning cello and violin arrangement,
two men drag and propel a sinewy female dancer through the
Later, a duo pauses in a moment of stillness, with both figures
locked together like a human straight jacket. While the interaction
between the dancers appears dangerous and violent, there is
a certain sweetness in their desperate attachment. The two
stand suspended in what appears to be a sacred embrace, keeping
each other away from the demands of their own path.
What makes McGregor’s choreography so dynamic and satisfying
is his ability to isolate a subtle human exchange amid collective
chaos. He does not aim to impress viewers solely by the complexity
of movement. Instead, McGregor employs various visual arts,
which draw viewers beyond the pure physicality of choreography.
In order to achieve a more layered experience, flashes of
black-and-white images are displayed upon three horizontal
canvases surrounding the stage. Each panel is attached to
a heavy metal contraption, much like a steel crane, which
rises and tilts on cue. The structures are not simply a background
device to magnify the movement in the foreground. Instead,
they are integral elements of the environment.
The most extensive video sequence features a collection of
images that reinforce the primitive yearnings expressed by
the dancers. One catches glimpses of various textures spread
across the elevated canvas—the cratered surface of the moon,
the patterned design of snake skin, the porous mounds of honeycomb
and the cracked expanse of desert sand. The portrayal of natural
environments complements the activity of the dancers, whose
interactions are wildly untamed and instinctual.
The organic imagery is replaced by a more digital reality,
as numbered equations rush across the wide panels. The musical
score intensifies, with a static motorized sound interwoven
with cello and piano. Three groups of dancers are arranged
on the stage, each contained by intersecting geometric shapes
projected onto the floor beneath them. Each dancer seems to
be imprisoned within these angles, unable to solve their own
As the manic quality of the dancers seems to reach an unbearable
intensity, the accompanying score is released from its heavy
droning base, leaving an ethereal stream of sound. The clarity
evokes a sense of freedom apart from the enduring angst of
the dancers. Beautifully timed with this sudden shift, the
frantic graphics of mathematical symbols gradually morph into
a flock of birds nearing formation.
While the piece continues to oscillate between unsolvable
chaos and individual clarity, the uncompromised drive of the
dancers seems to transcend any conflict between these seemingly
opposite states. There is a distinct freedom expressed simply
by observing the intensity of the production.