A week or so ago we returned to the Opera House Covent Garden, which is fast becoming a second home! This time it was to see a triple-bill celebrating resident choreographer Wayne McGregor's 10th anniversary with the company; it centred on a premiere work MULTIVERSE and this was bracketed by two previously seen works CHROMA and CARBON LIFE.
McGregor's choreography is not always easy and he evidently wants to push the boundaries of the music that can be utilized for the Royal Ballet but his WOOLF WORKS was our entry point to the Royal Ballet so he will always be interesting to us.
CHROMA premiered in 2006 and in this revival McGregor has invited dancers from the Alvin Ailey company to join his Royal Ballet troop to bring their particular brand of dynamism; indeed the first two dancers seen are the hypnotic partnership of the delightfully-named Jeroboem Bozeman and Jacqueline Green who were quite amazing. The company also included such stalwarts as Sarah Lamb, Federico Bonelli and Lauren Cuthbertson - the recent birth of a child might be good news for Steven McRae but sadly it robbed us of a chance to see his excellent dancing! John Pawson's cool and formal set design and McGregor's intricate yet flailing choreography was danced to tracks by Joby Talbot and Jack White of The White Stripes, however they all sounded vaguely like attempts at writing James Bond car chase themes. It was however a fantastic piece of dance theatre.
The premiere work MULTIVERSE sat in the middle of the evening and has not received the warmest reception. It is an incredibly hard piece to like; admire possibly, but very hard to like. It is set to two looped verbal works by the minimalist composer Steve Reich which were taken from a speech by an American black preacher in 1965 and called "It's Gonna Rain". This phrase repeats and repeats, words are dropped, the phrase is multi-tracked starting at different moments to create a dense soundscape that batters against your ears.
Sadly - after a day of being on the phone listening to complaints from annoyed people - the preacher's multi-tacked rant left me ice cold and if I am honest, McGregor's choreography displayed all the characteristics of "modern dance" or to quote the legend that is Nicola Blackman, "six dancers running around trying to find the toilet with the light out". Danced on a raked triangular stage, one could admire the commitment of the dancers who included Marianela Nunez, Eric Underwood and Edward Watson and towards the end, during the second Reich composition "Runner" from last year, there was finally some orchestral input and some interesting visual imagery, but by then I had disengaged from it.
It was with a suspicious heart that I took my seat for the last piece CARBON LIFE but here we were back to the McGregor we know: provocative, exciting and with a fluid sexuality. CARBON LIFE premiered in 2012 and is danced to a score of Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt songs. The music is played by an onstage band and a roster of singers - sadly absent was Boy George who had appeared in the premiere run four years ago but among the onstage singers was fellow-gayer Sam Sparrow.
Over nine songs the 18 dancers perform duets and small ensemble pieces, all with the signature McGregor moves of stretching, spinning, counterpoint movement and strong lines, but also clothed in the minimalist, futuristic costume designs of Gareth Pugh and lit by Lucy Carter's lighting design. By the time of the last song "Somebody To Love Me" I was totally won over by McGregor's fusion of dance, pop music and fashion. Ronson's songs sounded fantastic bouncing around the auditorium and all concerned are missing a trick not having the music recorded and available to buy.
I guess two out of three ain't bad - I would really like to see CHROMA and CARBON LIFE again. Make it happen Covent Garden!