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Wayne McGregor, CBE, choreographs for several of the world’s greatest ballet companies; he is Resident Choreographer at The Royal Ballet in London, where he lives and where he also is currently at work on a big public dance piece in conjunction with the London Olympics later this year. His own company, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, which works in residence at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, is currently touring McGregor’s FAR, an acronym deriving from the book which inspired the work. Roy Porter’s Flesh and the Age of Reason is a treatise on the intense examination of life, learning and belief during the Enlightenment, and McGregor takes and torques many similar questions in 21st century fashion.
It was fantastic to see the Reynolds Theater’s stage filled with these torquing kinetic question marks — the superbly limber and balanced ten dancers who perform FAR. In this 60-minute, unbroken work, they take the beautiful conventions and classical steps of ballet and examine, magnify and subvert them in ways that only further glorify the body and its huge range of possibility for expressing thought and feeling in motion and shape. The dancing is incredible! It is not just illustrative (or narrative) or demonstrative of theory or an exposition of pure form. It is thinking while dancing, and dancing while thinking — for 60 minutes the great mysterious bifurcation of body and mind is brought relentlessly to our attention, and denied, in the flesh and in our spirits. I felt subsumed into the dancers and the dance, and some truth passed through them into me. As they turned the conventions of ballet into a twisting Möbius strip of alternatives, I could feel energy running through me in the same looping way, as with acupuncture. Just at the point when I was so energized that the clean white light was popping into bubbles of color, it did actually change. In a brilliant choice, a few spots briefly painted the dancers’ feet with glowing red, and FAR took us into some holy territory.
Anyone seriously interested in ballet will want to see the repeat of this Duke Performances presentation on Saturday. It could change the way you see everything. I know it is only February, and there are a lot of contenders coming along, but FAR could easily remain “the most exciting thing I saw all year” when December rolls around.
FAR repeats Sat., Feb. 25, at 8 pm, in Reynolds Theater. See the sidebar for details.