Glorya Kaufman’s Dance at the Music Center hosted Company Wayne McGregor on October 5, 2018.   Seeing Mr. McGregor on his “Ted Talk” created an exciting expectation, to see this Scientist of Motion develop his genius out of the raw sequencing of his own genome.  An examination of this subject brought about the theme called “Autobiography” which promised secret revelations, through movement of the mysteries of his own 23 chromosomes.  This created numerous questions we hoped would be answered, not only about his subject matter, but him.  McGregor is known for his radical approach to technology and its use, integrated into his live choreography.  His affiliation with the Sadlers Wells, and his numerous honors in choreography, science, psychology, and experimentation with technology has most evidently helped to feed his exploration of movement and the brain, and the financing thereof.

In watching Autobiography it’s impossible to peg Wayne McGregor.  Is he a Choreographer? Intellect?  Director? Scientist of Motion or Physical Thinker? A renaissance man?  His work makes it difficult to constrict him to one title.  It also brings into question whether he is an artist, scientist or both.  As an artist, his exploration would encompass the soul, the pulse and rhythm as well as technique.   As a scientist; observations, curiosity, ideas, and research find the path to the answer.

In this hectic over-repetitive experimentation in movement and concept, his exploration thereof might have answered this; however, the performance bordered more on watching a representation of ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).  Living out the fantasies of cramming as much dance, effects and sounds onto one “eye of a needle”.  Everything seemed to be bouncing in and out of existence, machine-like, without a care, no interest and no hope of communicating anything but flairs in the night.

Despite all this, his dancers, Rebecca Bassett-Graham, Jordan James Bridge, Travi Clausen-Knight, Louise McMiller, Daniela Neugebauer, Jacob O’Connell, James Pett, Fukiko Takase, Po-Lin Tung, and Jessica Wright were wonderfully and physically facile.  They had lovely extensions with ability to twist in and out of positions and lifts without concern.  Some of the dancers took on bird-like undulating movements that were not always fully realized with the rush to move onto the next coil of DNA.  Their turns and control were a commendation to their strength and endurance to get through this commitment of one hour and 30 minutes.

CWG1 photo by Andrej Uspenski CWG2 photo by Andrej Uspenski CWG3 photo by Andrej Uspenski CWG4 photo by Andrej Uspenski CWG8 photo by Richard Davies CWG5 photo by Richard Davies CWG6 photo by Richard Davies CWG7 photo by Richard Davies CWG10 photo by Richard Davies CWG11 photo by Richard Davies
Company Wayne McGregor - Autobiography - Photo: Andrej Uspenski

It goes without saying that the technical aspects of this were rich with design and effort.  Set Design and Projection by Ben Cullen Williams with his geometric shapes raised and lowered on a massive grid, and the Lighting Design by Lucy Cater worked well to both encapsulate, hide or reveal the dancers.  Costume Design by Altor Throup, were uncomplicated, paneled at times and easy for the dancers to incorporate their movements.

The Music by Jlin, Sound Realization by Nick Sagar, eventually reached the nervous system which yearned for something other than strains of electronics, hints of words and blasts that were less effective than alarming.   Alas, what it did do was act to overwhelm the senses with only one restful moment, the strains of Corelli, just enough time to clear the head and take a breath before the final onslaught and questionable bow.

An exploration of his own DNA Autobiography appeared to be just a title, perhaps just a front.  Each 23 chromosome vignettes promised insights into this potentially exciting possibility.   However, as the evening went on, the created movement, light and sound made one duck for cover with the hope to escape to higher ground.

At times, this intellectual exercise appeared an affectation, a charade.  If we move fast enough and have more than enough information in one moment in time, we might be able to leave the audience breathless.

Since this is a piece about life, the need to include not only action but breadth, pacing, rhythm, and definitely a sense of connectedness to fulfill McGregor’s thesis.  These important elements were unclear, and therefore his thesis was never truly realized.  Because of this, the subject left one Icy cold and the memory of the piece, easily whittled down to effects, left one with a sense of unfulfillment.

For more information about Company Wayne McGregor, click here.

Feature image: Company Wayne McGregor – Autobiography – Photo: Richard Davies