FAR, Wayne McGregor / Random Dance, Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House | Dance reviews, news & interviews
FAR, Wayne McGregor / Random Dance, Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House
This impeccable but chilly production gets a second outing
Make no mistake; this is dancing of the highest order. The classically trained members of Wayne McGregor's company Random Dance demonstrate such exceptional mastery of technique that their movements should have one drooling in admiration. And since they wear little more than vests and pants for this production of FAR, every muscle in their perfectly honed bodies is visible as it tenses and releases, flexes and extends. Rather than being entranced by the beauty and fluency of their limbs, though, I found myself watching with cool dispassion. And soon, I realized I was thinking of the dancers primarily as anatomical specimens.
I was reminded of the anatomy lectures I sat through. Wearing only a G-string a model stood on the desk of the lecture theatre flexing the muscle indicated with a stick by the lecturer. It seemed demeaning for a man to be treated as an object for the edification of us art students, since being seen as nothing but a body is the ultimate indignity. In his painting The Anatomy Lesson of 1632, Rembrandt shows a cluster of medical men huddled over the corpse of a convicted criminal; the final indignity heaped on the executed man was to be dismembered in front of an audience.
Why did such thoughts come to mind while watching FAR? Was it because the dancers were being put through their paces for our pleasure? Such associations seem especially ironic, given that FAR is named after Flesh in the Age of Reason, the book that inspired the production. Written by Roy Porter, it explains how advances made in the study of human anatomy in the century after Rembrandt not only produced greater understanding of the body, but also encouraged speculation about the relationship between mind and body.
It's a topic dear to McGregor’s heart, one that he has been exploring with cognitive scientists in the Experimental Psychology Department of Cambridge University. His findings will increasingly, he hopes, produce what one might call “intelligent dance”, choreography that engages the minds as well as the bodies of the dancers. "In classical ballet and modern dance", he explains, “technique is still focused on physical training to the point of perfection. People concern themselves with virtuosity and controlling the body; the mind is essentially ignored. I completely reject this separation of mind and body.”
How far though, in FAR, are the dancers’ minds genuinely engaged? As I watched rubber limbed solos, fractious duets and perfectly timed ensemble routines, and saw yet another ripple undulate through a torso or another leg extend up past an ear, I was remarkably unmoved. Instead of being seduced by this exceptional physical grace, I found my mind wandering. I thought of the sequential photographs taken by Edweard Muybridge in the 1870s to analyse the motion of a jumping man or a dancing woman. The trim bodies of the young dancers reminded me of marionettes and the wooden lay figures used by artists to establish a pose.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
Emotion and politics skilfully combine in Ratmansky's old-new ballet about the French Revolution
Unfeminist comedy in Jean-Christophe Maillot's Shakespeare ballet
A peerless Odette almost makes up for production's psychological shortcomings
The Russians are back, marking 60 years since they first took London by storm
Canny brand synergy encourages fans to keep Promming
Serious choreography and lush design make this Surrealist fairytale a visual treat
Visiting Aussies are engaging in lush production, but the plot's not all that
Superstar ballerina and new partner Sergei Polunin lack lustre in self-commissioned contemporary triple
Choreographer du jour Crystal Pite heads up two impressive Canadian cultural offerings
MacMillan revival in a different class to anodyne offerings from McGregor and Wheeldon
Dance version is loud and brash with all the horror and none of the mystery
On his retirement tour, Cuban superstar showcases the young, and proves he's still got it