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The Royal Ballet: Wayne McGregor triple bill, November 2016


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Great evening - great reception for Wayne after new work and at the end when KOH thanked him for his contribution over last 10 years.

 

Quick thoughts:

 

Chroma - fresher, newer and weightier thanks to amazing addition of Alvin Ailey dancers. Liked it more than before - and in the context of a "trumped up world" a wonderful example of a magic mix of people.

 

Multiverse - it'll split the critics I think. I liked it - the dancing terrific - total commitment to the work. There were so many moments of quiet brilliance amongst the more angst driven stretches of choreography. The set incredible - the music wonderful but demanding at times. The mix of emotion and knife-edge dancing can be head-slamming - I'd have loved to see it again to get a better idea.

 

Carbon Life- liked it far more than last time round - ode to Michael Clark but very enjoyable.

 

Anyway, money well spent!

Edited by Vanartus
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I find I am enjoying Mr McGregor more and more. Loved tonight's Chroma and Carbon Life but I really did not like the noise that our wonderful dancers had to cope with in Multiverse? I won't say anymore now, I don't want to spoil anyone else's enjoyment other than to say I hated it. Looking forward to read other, more knowledgeable than me.

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Agree about the dancing, but that first piece of music(?) in Multiverse gave me a bad headache twice. I saw the dress rehearsal as well.

Agreed, how can you learn the dance to that racket. No more now, look forward to reading others.

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Brief initial impressions:

 

Chroma - I was at its world premiere 10 years ago. Loved it then and love it still. The Alvin Ailey dancers blended beautifully with the RB dancers; four of the five of the latter were in that premiere 10 years ago.

 

Multiverse - at worst I was very irritated, at best I was bored.

 

Carbon Life - I loved it again. It is moving and exciting, and all the disparate elements come together to make a whole that I could watch over and over again.

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As a died-in-the-wool Steve Reich fan I will have to beg to differ about the start of Multiverse!  It might not be easy listening, but 'It's Gonna Rain' is a classic of minimalism, and I thought it suited the themes of fracturing and dislocation that McGregor was trying to explore perfectly - the way the dancers in the opening section at times seemed to move in and out of phase with each other as the music was doing the same was stunning.  The middle section, which to me spoke powerfully of refugees and forced migrations, was almost heart-breaking and very relevant in this post-Brexit, post-Trump world, whilst the final section, with its striking brand-new Reich score, provided a degree of solace.  All in all, a wonderful work!

 

If you were looking for a racket, I'm afraid I'd have to say the music for Carbon Life would in my book fit the description.  I wanted to like it, but the songs sounded like they were songs from previous Mark Ronson projects that had been rejected from the final mix because they were simply not good enough.  Cutting edge dance like this surely needs cutting edge music, and this was the one without the other.  Chroma on the other hand, like Multiverse, had a perfect match of music and dance.  I'd only seen this on DVD before and it was so much better in the flesh, helped in no small matter by the Alvin Ailey contingent.

 

I loved the presentation at the end - it showed how much McGregor is respected at Covent Garden, and deservedly so on the evidence of this triple bill.  I would just advise him not to use Mark Ronson again!

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Chroma. i did not think that it had as much impact as it had previously because too much of the partnering was "careful" if not tentative which reduced its impact quite considerably

 

Multiverse. Inevitably the audience was full of whooping enthusiasts for this type of work. Perhaps they thought that it was incredibly transgressive to have this sort of choreography performed on the hallowed stage I don't know. What I do know is that I found the new work,Multiverse, incredibly boring and a great waste of principal dancers. It was packed full of McGregor's limited dance vocabulary.which was performed in exemplary fashion by the cast which included seven principal dancers. The ballet begins with two men McRae and Kay apparently confined in a "V" shaped area to the accompaniment of  "recorded voices as a melodic source" or to others, loudly amplified shouting. The words are used repetitively, because Mr Reich loves patterns, the words are generally incomprehensible .The first section has two men dancing.. The next section brings more dancers to the stage.They give the impression that they are trapped.This section is also accompanied by shouting. In the first section the men dance either mirroring each other or following each other's movement. One does a little jump the other man follows and so one. In the middle section there are more dancers on stage They spend a lot of time running around as  if they are trying to escape from the confined space  The final section is performed by a large number of dancers accompanied by the orchestra.It is performed in a larger space with the standard range of McGregor's  five or six dance movements.  Some people behind me walked out during the second section

 

Of the three works being performed I found  Carbon Life was the most gripping in performance.But perhaps that was a reaction to the tedium of Multiverse rather than a true assessment of the quality of the performance.

Edited by FLOSS
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Great evening - great reception for Wayne after new work and at the end when KOH thanked him for his contribution over last 10 years.

 

Quick thoughts:

 

Chroma - fresher, newer and weightier thanks to amazing addition of Alvin Ailey dancers. Liked it more than before - and in the context of a "trumped up world" a wonderful example of a magic mix of people.

 

Multiverse - it'll split the critics I think. I liked it - the dancing terrific - total commitment to the work. There were so many moments of quiet brilliance amongst the more angst driven stretches of choreography. The set incredible - the music wonderful but demanding at times. The mix of emotion and knife-edge dancing can be head-slamming - I'd have loved to see it again to get a better idea.

 

Carbon Life- liked it far more than last time round - ode to Michael Clark but very enjoyable.

 

Anyway, money well spent!

'Head-slamming'= not sure I feel up to that at the moment..do you mean the sheer volume?  Were there lots of flashing lights?

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I loved the presentation at the end - it showed how much McGregor is respected at Covent Garden, and deservedly so on the evidence of this triple bill.  I would just advise him not to use Mark Ronson again!

 

 

 

Kevin O'Hare on Wayne McGregor from today's links:  https://inews.co.uk/essentials/culture/__trashed-5/

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Chroma - I enjoyed this 10 years ago because the style seemed new and quite cutting edge; now, without the benefit of novelty, I was bored silly. (Though I thought the Alvin Ailey dancers were very effective guests - in fact the style suited them better than it suits the RB dancers.)

 

Multiverse - I was bored silly throughout. (Why on earth did it need a 'dramaturg'??). FLOSS has described it fully above. I found more interest in looking at the very beautiful ceiling of the ROH (I sit in the Amphi).

 

Carbon Life - at least this had some interesting lighting effects, and some music that in another setting I might have enjoyed. At the Opera House, I felt embarrassed at the self-conscious trendiness on show. I also felt very sorry for the two men who had to dance with their heads fully covered (McGregor's usual respect for the individuality of his dancers) and those who had to wear Klan-like headdresses whilst dancing. But at least this work gave some sense of theatre.

 

Overall: Emperor's new clothes kept coming to mind as people were whooping. And I left as KOH came on to do the presentation. I really couldn't cope with the self-congratulatory nonsense going on, and I feel angry that these wonderful dancers are being used in this way by someone who should never have been appointed resident choreographer of a classical ballet company. I loved Woolf Works; but that is not typical of McGregor's work. I have seen most of his other pieces for the RB, and have sometimes started by being intrigued - as with Chroma - but the intrigue has not lasted. I also fear for the dancers' bodies when I watch them in these works; and I resent the wilful and constant distortion of their classical technique. McGregor has his own, successful, contemporary dance company; the RB dancers, although brilliant, are not contemporary dancers. I could understand inviting him to make one work on them, as an interesting experiment (cf Hofesh Shechter); but resident choreographer??

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'Head-slamming'= not sure I feel up to that at the moment..do you mean the sheer volume? Were there lots of flashing lights?

Hi - it was more that there was just so much going on at times...the lighting, the music, the conflicting demands of watching the pairs, the groups of movement that my eyes sought refuge in the stillness at the edges of the main action.

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Multiverse - I was bored silly throughout. (Why on earth did it need a 'dramaturg'??). FLOSS has described it fully above. I found more interest in looking at the very beautiful ceiling of the ROH (I sit in the Amphi).

 

 

Overall: Emperor's new clothes kept coming to mind as people were whooping. And I left as KOH came on to do the presentation. I really couldn't cope with the self-congratulatory nonsense going

on, and I feel angry that these wonderful dancers are being used in this way by someone who should never have been appointed resident choreographer of a classical ballet company. I

loved Woolf Works; but that is not typical of McGregor's work. I have seen most of his other pieces for the RB, and have sometimes started by being intrigued - as with Chroma - but the intrigue has not lasted. I also fear for the dancers' bodies when I watch them in these works; and I resent the wilful and constant distortion of their classical technique. McGregor has his own, successful, contemporary dance company; the RB dancers, although brilliant, are not contemporary dancers. I could understand inviting him to make one work on them, as an interesting experiment (cf Hofesh Shechter); but resident choreographer??

I think the dramaturg helped flesh out the section that focused on the migrants (the photographs of the migrants at sea morphing into the Delacroix (?), then dissolving). This section was for me the most involving, where his scalpel cut choreography is softened by his emotional involvement to the theme/cause, and the terrific commitment of the dancers. I felt everything came together in the piece here.

 

Woolf Works is I agree something else, and I felt his previous all-male work Obsidian Tear took him further AND perhaps more successfully down a more emotional choreographic route.

 

Nevertheless I would have liked to see Multiverse again (I'm away now for a couple of weeks) just to get a better handle on the work.

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Floss refers to the standard range of five or six McGregor dance movements. As many as that?

LOL - the friend I was with thought he only has three! Our friendship survived despite our different Wayne's World's views ...

Edited by Vanartus
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Good ballet design generally entails creating an empty box which does not appear to be only that and designing costumes which make the dancers stand out sufficiently to enable them and their movement to be seen with clarity by the entire audience and not merely by the first eight rows of the stalls. In some ballets costumes  will be designed to amplify the effect of the dancers' movement in others costumes will be deliberately designed to restrict the dancers' movement. Design may be used to suggest a place, a time and a mood. In a narrative work the costumes may tell you about the characters themselves. Good lighting designs are usually intended to make what happens on stage visible to the audience. Even when lighting is intended to assist in the creation of mood or atmosphere it should not obscure what happens on stage. The one thing that design and lighting should not do is draw the eye away from the dancers.

 

Is it just me but I sometimes feel that the lighting and sets for McGregor's dance works for Covent Garden are intended to distract the audience from their lack of real dance content. Yes the lighting is clever and the designs for the stage are often intriguing but is ballet really only about stage design? Is not ballet about dancing and the relationship between movement and the music and sound when music or sound is used? For me McGregor's "choreography" is sadly predictable. It rarely produces any lasting images. I leave the auditorium and it is a case of instant amnesia as the movements are instantly forgettable. Isn't it strange that a dance maker who is not constrained by any rules produces works of such limited interest to the "unconverted" while one subject to the restrictions of the classical dance is stimulated to be inventive by those very rules? Of course I am sure that it is very different for the true believer but for the rest of us?  I am afraid that I am so far from being one of the "converts" That I spend a lot of time wondering just how much his works cost to stage. Multiverse seemed to have an incredibly large number of people engaged in its creation.

Edited by FLOSS
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Really interesting comments. I won't comment on performance as was only at rehearsal. I really enjoyed reading all comments especially Floss contributions. I am booked to go next Wednesday but not looking forward to seeing Multiverse again. However maybe a second viewing may help. Not sure about the listening! Thank you contributors for such stimulating discussions. Great that we are all so different.

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Chroma has long been a favourite of mine but it didn't do it for me last night. Everyone else seems to have enjoyed the inclusion of the Alvin Ailey dancers but I found the difference in their muscular physicality compared to our 'regulars' distracting. I also very much missed Eric Underwood's sinuous presence. I'd far rather seen him reprise his role in Chroma than see him wasted in Multiverse. Multiwaste of time, talent and money would be more accurate.

 

Varnatus rightly said opinion would be split on Multiverse and I'm heavily in the irritated/bored camp. The resampled and very loud sounds that opened the piece really got on my nerves. I loved the choreography for McRae and Kay but I definitely needed earplugs to have any chance of enjoyment. As for the rest....... it was really boring. When you are more interested in the squares changing colour in the background than what the dancers are doing, there is something very wrong. Even the ending was naff and looked like the Wheeldon trick of  'drop the curtain folks, I've run out of ideas'.

 

Carbon Life was something I have yearned to see again. Absolutely loved it first time around and thoroughly enjoyed it last night. I am convinced there have been major changes but can't quite figure exactly out what. Certainly some of the lyrics were different. I had a private bet that the profanities would have been removed...I can clearly remember Alison Mosshart prowling round a dancer in the circle of light swearing (and screaming) her head off. The lyrics had obviously been changed but was it another song? The original had a different set of musicians, so has anything else changed? Had they also lowered the volume?  Lastly I am sure that in the final set both Eric Underwood and Ed Watson came out en pointe in those black leather boots, but last night only Eric did this. Any clues on any of this anyone?

 

So glad we left before the self-congratulatory back-slapping started. Like BridieM I also worry about what his choreography is doing to our fantastic dancers. Is it worth it?

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Really mixed feelings after last night.

 

First the good - Loved Carbon Life even more than I had remembered. Just grinned from ear to ear throughout -I actually preferred the previous/original singers/musicians involved. Biased probably as I have a soft spot for Boy George ( showing my age by saying I can still remember rowing with my dad when he first came on Top of the Pops that he was indeed a boy) and although I hadn't heard Alison Mossheart before I thought that she brought a fierce female presence. But last nights singers and musicians also got into the spirit of the piece which I think is a fun, sexy and at times touching work in which the dancers all looked like they were having a great time and throwing caution to the wind on stage.

 

One thing that stood out in this piece compared to the rest of the evening was that McGregor really made the most of that huge ROH stage -often I feel like he doesn't do this and has dancers confined to certain repetitive areas of the stage which is both annoying as a viewer ( especially if sat in certain areas of the auditorium ) and frustrating in that it feels like such a waste of such a wonderful expanse of space. I think this may also  add to the feeling of repetition in McGregor's choreography -but more of that later. Like I said I really enjoyed Carbon Life- I thought Nunez was in fine form in her trio ( sorry I don't remember the 2 men partnering her in this) I was quite close to the stage and her face was lit up throughout it. I also loved Ed Watson and Olivia Cowley's section which is aggressive and tender and I think one of McGregor'st most emotionally honest duets -I expect it's not to everyone's liking but I think Cowley and Watson have not only physiques that complement one another but also when paired together I think they both give some of their most raw, brutal, yet honest and sensitive performances. Another male/female pairing that stood out to me was Eric Underwood and Francesca Haywood-don't think I've seen Francesca go so hell for leather in a piece - she really threw herself uninhibited around that stage and was almost daring/challenging Eric to catch her. I thought the piece brought out a side to this exceptional talent that I've not seen before and I loved it, she did too by the look on her face. And last but by no means least I always love seeing Eric Underwood and Edward Watson paired up together and their fabulous black pointebooted duet was even better than I remembered it -more touching and sweet as well as fierce and fun. Like muummykool said last time they were both in pointe boots but I thought this worked better with Eric in pointeboots and Ed in standard flats. Love the costumes -blurring gender boundaries and demonstrating how costumes can contribute to the morphology of the body in dance works. Only disappointment in Carbon Life is something which always bugs me -why can't McGregor choreograph female/female duets as well and as, or indeed as often as his male/male ones? Why not pair Hayward and Cowley together in an extended dance like Watson and Underwood? But I guess that may open up the whole female choreographers, or lack thereof debate again ... 

 

Now the not so good- Chroma I enjoyed but I have to say that with repeat viewing this does lose a little of the wow factor and effect -I personally much prefer Infra, partly because the emotional/fractured narrative aspects of McGregor's work is what attracts me rather than the athletic contortions. I thought the Ailey dancers were a welcome addition,and they were a really lovely surprise addition to the evening but on the downside it did highlight how overwhelmingly white the RB is and I think this is something I often push to the back of my mind, like the lack of female choreographers it seems to be an unacceptable accepted fact. Does that make sense? And yes as mummykool also said I thought Eric Underwood was sorely missed in Chroma and some of the partnering looked a little wary and didn't have the attack and daring that is so needed to make Chroma roar. 

 

Multiverse was very disappointing and I'm afraid made me question whether a McGregor  triple bill is a good idea at this stage in his ROH career, 10 years or not. I say this as a fan -Infra and Woolf Works are 2 of my favourite ballets in the RB repertoire and I love Carbon Life and Raven Girl. But of his other shorter works they are just too much of a muchness choreographically and can leave me feeling rather unengaged. One caveat to my initial impressions of the premiere last night is that I didn't actually get to see much dancing as I was sat in a box on the far left of the stage so I mostly spent the time staring at the tiles as they changed colour and occasionally seeing dancers run off stage. The costumes were horrible, the music/noise i struggled with before the orchestra kicked in,  the set had promise- I definitely sat up and took notice when they showed the photographs and the paintings and thought it was going to turn into an overtly political work which would have been wonderful but then it seemed to merge back into a standard dancers walk on/run off and echo some distorted movements of one another in between. I would like to and all see it again to see if seeing the whole stage changes my views but I fear from the other responses here that it may not. It all seemed a bit like a bad attempt at a Cunningam/Cage piece. 

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First impressions:
 
Chroma  - superb, Alvin Ailey dancers even more flexible than the RB, best performance I've ever seen, marvellous mix of dancers!
 
Multiverse - suffice it to say I kept nodding off.

 

Carbon Life - took a while to get going then there were some fabulous performances especially Olivia Cowley/Edward Watson and Francesca Hayward/Eric Underwood.

 

The long intervals, similarity in ballets, darkish lighting and the first being easily the best for me was not a good combination, am looking forward to the second cast though I believe Chroma stays the same for all performances.

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As McGregor seems to be regarded as "THE CHOREOGRAPHER" who will lead the RB to its golden future and away from all that fusty old stuff that it is obliged to perform I don't expect too many voices to be raised against his latest contribution to the repertory. He is the company's future. At least that is what we are required to believe if Mr O 'Hare's article in the "I" is anything to go by.

 

Personally I don't expect anyone to raise any doubts about the wisdom of staging a triple bill devoted exclusively to his works or to question the quality of his latest work. I think very few who are part of the professional dance establishment or its professional critics would dare to point out the overwhelming similarity of his oeuvre. or question its likely long term effect on those who perform it No one wants to appear a fool or to appear terribly old fashioned do they? Some how I seem to recall that a nineteenth century Danish writer wrote a story on this very theme.As far as the general dance establishment is concerned it's a case of " Is he not a good thing? Can you have too much of a good thing?" Only Sir Peter Wright and Liam Scarlett appear to be brave enough to question whether his works are really good for dancers and their bodies.

Edited by FLOSS
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Vanartus It was referred to in an interview which Scarlett gave to the Stage in April 2016 just before the premiere of Frankenstein. In it the interviewer referred to a statement which Scarlett had made in 2008 in which he had expressed concern that choreographers were making extreme demands on dancers which only a limited few could meet safely, You can find the interview  with Liam Scarlett dated May 2008 on the Societe Auguste Vestris web site.In the original interview Scarlett names McGregor and says that he thinks that the extreme style is dangerous. In his 2016 interview with the Stage he backtracks a bit on condemning  McGregor's extreme style by saying that he made the comment just after he had appeared in Chroma. In the 2008 interview there is no such qualification simply a statement on which he later expands, 

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As McGregor seems to be regarded as "THE CHOREOGRAPHER" who will lead the RB to its golden future and away from all that fusty old stuff that it is obliged to perform I don't expect too many voices to be raised against his latest contribution to the repertory. He is the company's future. At least that is what we are required to believe if Mr O 'Hare's article in the "I" is anything to go by.

 

Personally I don't expect anyone to raise any doubts about the wisdom of staging a triple bill devoted exclusively to his works or to question the quality of his latest work. I think very few who are part of the professional dance establishment or its professional critics would dare to point out the overwhelming similarity of his oeuvre. or question its likely long term effect on those who perform it No one wants to appear a fool or to appear terribly old fashioned do they? Some how I seem to recall that a nineteenth century Danish writer wrote a story on this very theme.As far as the general dance establishment is concerned it's a case of " Is he not a good thing? Can you have too much of a good thing?" Only Sir Peter Wright and Liam Scarlett appear to be brave enough to question whether his works are really good for dancers and their bodies.

 

His new work is a complete bore, I nearly fell asleep. I have seen much better Contemporary dance creations.

 

We get the opinions of the audience and the critics but I have always wondered what the dancers are thinking of McGregor's work, and how it must feel to be dancing such extreme movements with a highly classically trained body. Do they really enjoy it? Bar a few such as Underwood, Watson, Cuthbertson, Cowley,...(McGregor's predictable selection of dancers who seem to enjoy it) I really wonder about the others.

 

McGregor to me is simply an emperor in new clothes. His early works were intriguing and highly creative but his more recent works really bore me: they feel empty and have become so repetitive. McGregor's limitations in creating new movements are hidden behind a veil of so-called intellectualism. I have nothing against that, on the contrary, but when it is to hide a lack of depth and creativity it all becomes repetitive and arrogant, using intellectualism as a justification for his limited range of creating movement.

But hey, I don't get it do I? I assume anyone who considers McGregor's recent creations as boring will be looked upon as not understanding his work...He just hasn't evolved but I guess he's a useful "instrument" in getting the young to walk into the ROH and see a dance piece. They may as well go to Sadler's Wells for that.

Edited by Nina G.
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Nina, a male dancer recently said to me:  we don't train and study all those years just to dance McGregor.  I know that many dancers don't like dancing his stuff.   However, if a world-class company has an AD who thinks that McGregor is the future of the company, then they may not have much choice going forward.  Madam would be spinning in her grave.

 

This new piece just felt rushed, coming so soon after Obsidian Tear (which I really liked).  If that had been the 2nd piece, it would have been a very enjoyable triple.  Instead of showing OT at the end of last season, couldn't they just have waited a few months and made that his celebratory new piece?  Why do we have to have two new McGregors in the space of six months?  Both of these came pretty close on the heels of Woolf Works (which I also like).  Just because he is resident choreographer, it doesn't mean we have to be subjected to new stuff by him at such short intervals.  It will all lose its meaning if they aren't careful.  Too much of good thing, Kevin.  Less is more, Kevin.  

 

Personally I would add Multiverse to the pile that already contains Limen, Tetractys, Raven Girl and Line of Fire, and consign that pile to Room 101.

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