Festival Dance


Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

four stars

For choreographer Wayne McGregor, the sequencing of his own genome was a beginning: in the studio, with his dancers, he used the genome’s structure - 23 pairs of chromosomes - as the springboard for a work that would filter life experiences, memories, sounds and significant artefacts into 23 discrete episodes. You don’t need to know any of this, or the other scientific factors that are still influencing Autobiography on a nightly basis. Just.Watch.The.Dance. Take on board the shifting intricacies of the design elements - Lucy Carter’s lighting, Ben Cullen Williams’s rise-and-fall metal-work grid - that keep re-defining the space around the dancers. Register how Jlin’s electronic score varies its colours like a chameleon on speed - pounding out frenetic beats or lulling down to almost-twee schmaltz according to the mood implied in the title of each section.

Every performance opens with Avatar, in which a lone male dancer travels the stage in a solo that flows and shifts like a stream of consciousness, pliant limbs wheeling into spins or taking a leap into a universe that is, intrinsically, McGregor’s own cosmos. The fifteen randomly-selected vignettes on Saturday included ‘ageing’, ‘nature’ and ‘lucent’ - this latter was an exquisite male duet, touched with an unhurried tenderness that brilliantly counterpointed other scenarios where fleet feet burned up the floor while bodies morphed into anglepoise mode and ricocheted from one gymnastic configuration to another. At times, there were fleeting echoes of McGregor’s own dancing days when his long, pale body twisted and stretched with an improbable elasticity. Moments, too, when the choreography reflects his curiousity about neural networks, new technology and how old age re-orders our faculties. Aitor Throup’s costumes may be cunning conjunctions of black and white, but there is nothing monochrome, or with such a strict palette in McGregor’s kaleidoscopic choreography. Luckily his dancers are superbly able to express his mercurial mindset.