A new Muybridge-related dance piece is currently being performed at Sadler’s Wells, London – unfortunately, until tomorrow only. Here’s a review by Sarah Crompton.
Undance, Sadler’s Wells, review
Mark Wallinger, Mark Anthony Turnage and Wayne McGregor collaborate in Undance, at Sadler’s Wells.
By Sarah Crompton
The tendency of most dance is towards flattering beauty, towards the lovely act rather than the uncompromising action. One of the many heroic qualities of Undance, this fascinating heavyweight collaboration between the artist Mark Wallinger, the composer Mark Anthony Turnage and the choreographer Wayne McGregor is that it isn’t always gorgeous: it has the knotty complexity of an idea being weighed and examined.
The concept in the balance was Wallinger’s. He placed Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering photographs of human movement and the verbs he made his models enact (to jump, to run, to walk etc) alongside Richard Serra’s more theoretical list of action verbs for sculpture (of entropy, of equilibrium). Then he added in “UN” – the initials that stand for a plea for redemption, a chance to undo what we have done.
This web of thought is reflected in a set, beautifully lit by Lucy Carter, which recreates Muybridge’s measuring grid at the back, and pictures of UN compounds at the sides.
It is echoed too in Turnage’s sumptuous score in eight movements, a network of oppositions, full of breezy, heavily-accented woodwind, bluesy brass, and running strings, beautifully played by the specially created Undance Band, conducted by Tim Murray.
The piece opens with the ten dancers from Random Dance Company, in flesh coloured costumes which make them look like Muybridge’s naked models, lining up against the grid, then moving forward to perform the iconic poses. A film runs behind them, slightly out of sync.
Then, as the music unfurls, so does the piece, with McGregor’s characteristically graceful distortions that fold back on themselves seeming to demonstrate not only actions – at one point the dancers run under strobe lights, looking exactly like the figures on Muybridge’s glass discs – but also thoughts. In one section they seem to push through time as well as space, as the film runs in the opposite direction to the steps we are seeing.
What we see is sometimes ugly, or angry, or confused, but it finds resolution by returning to first positions. The dancers literally do this: posing like Muybridge’s pioneers in an expectant diagonal line, ready to begin again. It’s both stringent and richly complicated.
There’s a video clip here, for a limited period:
Posted here by Stephen Herbert