By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 1 AUGUST 2011 Wayne Mcgregor is currently the golden
boy of British dance who made a name for himself with his physically
exhausting movements and his collaborations across dance with film,
computer technology and the sciences. Made a Research Fellow in the
Department of Experimental psychology at Cambridge University in 2004, his
2006 creation, Chroma, opened doors for him and paved the way to
his position of Resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet later the same
year. He was the first contemporary choreographer to obtain this post.
Since then he has been showered with awards, including the prestigious
title of Commander of the British Empire for his contribution to dance,
and he is much in demand from most of the major international companies
throughout the world.
However, with LAnatomie de la Sensation, his second work for
the Paris Opera Ballet, he branched away from all his radical
technological aids, concentrating on pure movement. The work is directly
inspired, he says, by the paintings of the Irish artist, Francis Bacon
(1909 -1992), but Bacons fascinating canvases in the Tate Gallery in
London have a powerful, violent almost repulsive beauty. They disturb; bodies decompose
and whole civilisations are stifled and suffocated. Moreover, there is
the magnificence and brilliance of his palette, the vivid oranges he loved
so well, the pungent blues and mauves, the shrieking pinks and yellows,
the acidity of his greens. The work that McGregor created for the Paris
Opera Ballet reflected none of this.
Wayne Mcgregor: LAnatomie de la Sensation
The programme claims the British choreographer attempted to "shed light
on the forces of life and death alike that run through Bacons paintings".
And while this might be a laudable goal in itself, it failed. If one had
not read about the piece beforehand, the work itself gives little
indication of what it is about and neither is the audience helped along by
the scenery. John Pawsons minimalist and disappointing decor, giant-
sized black and white panels dominating the Opera Bastilles stage, bore
no correlation to Bacons vision.
LAnatomie de la Sensation, which is composed of eight
movements, began with a duo between Mathias Heymann and Jerémie
Belingard set to a score by Mark
Antony Turnage entitled, Blood on the Floor, after
Bacons painting of the same name. This is the closest we get to Bacon, as
the two brilliant interpreters, divesting themselves of their clothes,
their young, muscled bodies clad in shorts, began a complex series of
movements, rotating, gyrating, spinning and rolling around each other.
From time to time, Heymann, the more classical of the two, was allowed a
spectacular jump in the air. This promised well, but then went nowhere.
What was Mcgregor saying? Where was he going? The dancers arms
shot out at jerky angles and their feet and legs slashed in the air, as
bemused spectators admired the personal beauty of the dancers, but little
The solo which followed, interpreted by Marie-Agnès Gillot, one of the
most impressive contemporary dancers today, took no account of either
her dramatic capabilities or her technique. What was she supposed to be,
slithering around on the floor, curling up and around herself, reminiscent
of a small insect rather than illustrating an emotion from a painting? The
uncomfortable positions imposed upon her, the back movements in a letter S
were painful indeed to watch, and her duo with Audric Bézard,
Wayne Mcgregor: LAnatomie de la Sensation
The best part of the evening was the pas de deux interpreted
by Alice Renavand and Josua Hoffalt, and it was no surprise that most of
it was danced in silence; the hallmark of this creation being its
unmusicality, whether intended or not. Renavand and Hoffalt possess
expressive, supple bodies, and they and they alone, seemed to enjoy what
they were dancing. They also benefitted from mauve and acid green lighting
on the panels which contributed to the atmosphere.
There was also a certain atmosphere in the fifth movement, with three
go-go dancers in a disco, but it was, to quote from French, "hair in the
soup". Did Bacon like jazz clubs? Were spectators aware of this? Even the
last movement with the whole cast, quasi-naked, on stage seemed bitty,
confused, and disconnected from the rest. Possibly one of the criticisms
of Mcgregors work is that, not having studied classical dance himself, he
does not understand a dancers body or what to do with it. His famous
sharp, speedy, disarticulated gesticulating is better suited to his own
lean and lanky frame. His broken angles, jutting out chins and fractured
movements totally lacking in grace need the rubber joints and boneless
physiques of circus acrobats.
It is also the speed, not of his dance, but of the number of his
creations that is becoming alarming. It is maybe the reason for the
repetitive nature of this particular work, for, though many sequences
began differently, in the end, they all seemed the same. The work, a mere
one hour fifteen minutes, dragged even with the luminous presence of
Aurélie Dupont, and the only sensation one felt was relief that it
was all over.
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has
contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing Times and was dance
consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Based in
Paris, Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for
Culturekiosque. She last wrote on The
Last Testament of Pina Bausch.
Headline image: Wayne
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