Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance seen at Novellus Theatre, November 11

12 Nov

I show my age and prejudices  in reviewing Random Dance.  Its first of two performances in San Francisco occurred on Armistice Day, known now as Veterans’ Day.  Despite ten brilliant barefoot dancers, brimming with talent and technique, I felt Random Dance provided an Armistice from contemporary sounds at its conclusion and the contemporary capacity of frantic activity feeding  little to one’s heart or soul.

I was not alone in my reaction, fortunately;  plenty in the audience provided  standing praise at the completion of the hour-long piece without intermission.

It also was interesting to note that the four dancers with McGregor since 2008 were women.  Three men joined in 2010, and one of each gender made the company numbers nine and ten in 2011.

What exactly was seen?  The blue curtain rose on a video installation upstage
left in front of Patrick Burnier’s handsome U-shaped barriers. Ravi Deepres’ video displayed a white greyhound running continuously and at length.  Then Fukiko Takase appeared in the setting’s upstage left opening  and the movement style began to manifest itself.  McGregor is enamored with torso rolls, front to back, sometimes to the side.  The entire ensemble entered with this thrust position before commencing undulating variations.  Arms were given multiple angles, rotations and when raised en haut, the hands were curled.

With pointed bare feet, the dancers moved frequently in exaggerated developpes a la seconde, particularly when the women were being supported by the men or slung across their backs. Against incredibly grating sounds by a cello or some technical device, the women could be seen at various moments sitting or standing in stillness, either singly or as an ensemble. These sounds were original music by Joby Talbot and Jon Hopkins.  Against the movement the u-shaped set was mechanically raised with a panel at the back to display a variety of images, from random dots, to lines, to bird-like shapes. Throughout Lucy Carter’s lighting urged the eye to keep looking and hoping.

The dancers wore white tee shirts and black trunks, midway abandoning the tee shirts, the men bare chested, the women wearing black bras with a reinforcing vertical band in the back.  With the elaborate set hydraulics for the set, it was easy to know where the production budget was allotted.

I think Random was an excellent label for this work by this choreographer, currently much in vogue. San Francisco Ballet has two provocative works by
Wayne McGregor in its repertory.  But, however skillfully realized by those
wonderful dancers, I found Random Dances equaled empty.


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