With a computerized pin board of 3,200 LED lights serving as the backdrop to Wayne McGregor’s latest work, Far, this acclaimed UK choreographer is playing with ideas of cognition and enlightenment. McGregor was last in Vancouver with Entity in 2012, and Dance House producer Jim Smith said that Far has a different tone.
“Far is a darker piece musically. The sound is a darker journey of trying to get to enlightenment, and there’s an ambient feeling.” McGregor deals with large ideas allowing the audience to make big abstractions based on the concrete questions that he’s asking about the brain and creativity.
“It’s very much about ideas,” said Smith. “McGregor spent a fair bit of time thinking about neuroscience and creativity and the brain.” He is also very interested in technology, explaining the light board which can be seen as representing the synapses of the brain.
Smith can see where the notion of enlightenment comes from in this work, and he said that it points to the growth and dissemination of information. “It’s about adding information to a larger body of work, the expansion of information. It’s the opposite of a dark age where there is a loss of information from society.
“In Entity there were large contraptions on the stage,” explained Smith, saying that “the set very much defines a lot of [McGregor’s] work.” In Far, the light board “fills the space and commands a lot of attention.” Although this might seem like it could overwhelm the stage, Smith said that they strike the right balance between the set and the movement itself. The large set pieces are also counterbalanced by the minimalist costuming which reveals the body so that the movement can be the focus. “The costumes are very pedestrian — they show the body in a natural way,” explained Smith.
McGregor has a distinctive style that is marked by fast paced, athletic movement. Smith explained that unlike much of the more conceptual work being created these days, McGregor dancers are athletes and the work is very physically demanding. “It’s very inventive movement; he’s establishing a signature,” said Smith. McGregor has choreographed for films such as Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and worked on a music video for Radiohead. He is able to strike a rare balance, excelling in both the world of contemporary dance and popular culture.
Dance House brings contemporary choreographers from around the world to present their work in Vancouver, and Smith explained that McGregor is part of the avant-garde in contemporary dance. “There’s a certain fascination of a generation and movement of choreographers that includes Crystal Pite and Hofesh Shector. They’re of a similar age and stage in their careers, and they’re on the cutting edge of contemporary dance in the world right now.” By bringing McGregor back to town, Smith said that Dance House aims to shed light on the current state of contemporary dance.
“Speaking of Dance,” a public lecture on this work, will be held at SFU Woodward’s on September 23. Far by Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance will be presented by Dance House September 26 and 27 at the Vancouver Playhouse. For more information visit, dancehouse.ca.