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Random Dance's 'FAR' out there for some

by Joanna G. Harris
January 20, 2014
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
415.978.ARTS (2787)
Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
Wayne McGregor, the celebrated English choreographer, "renowned for his groundbreaking collaborations across dance, film, music, visual art, technology and science," presented a new work entitled "FAR" at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' Lam Research Theater this past weekend.

According to McGregor's program notes, the work was inspired by Roy Porter's history of 18th century explorations into body and soul, "Flesh in the Age of Reason (thus the title "FAR"). McGregor continues, "And I thought that stripping away of layers was analogous to the very beginning of the Enlightenment." Wonderful…and how does this translate into performance and choreography? Alas, for this reviewer, not very well.

What we the audience are presented with is a series of duets, solos and sometimes trios, (rarely any group work), during which the current style of dance acrobatics are energetically delivered. Beyond the ballet vocabulary, (which is most apparent in the formal turns), the new "freedom" is achieved by upper body undulations and various ways of flinging arms. McGregor refers to this activity as "bodies misbehaving…it engages your eye in a way that clarity of line does not." Perhaps for a generation Smartphone probing audience members, such "misbehaving" is satisfying. But other dance viewers might enjoy dance with a clarity of line, varied dynamics and ensemble performance.

"FAR" features music by Ben Frost (often very loud and noisy), lighting design by Lucy Carter (violent intensities across a center stage board, sometimes blocking the dancers completely, set design by random (barely visible) and costumes (minimal shirts, shorts and tights) by Moritz Junge.

Critics have praised McGregor for his experimentation, since he "examines how scientific innovation and rational thought in the 18th century changed human's understanding of body and soul." Yet, when such experiments are performed in the theater, they must be shared and appreciated by the audience, whose perceptual levels, challenged though they may be, should be able to identify the dance elements and organization and…feel something about the body and soul.

McGregor's "Chroma" and "Borderlands" have been seen in the SF Ballet's repertoire in past years. From February 18-March 1, the 2014 season will bring back McGregor's "Borderlands". San Francisco audiences must judge for themselves if McGregor has achieved his goals and visions for today.
Random Dance performers in Wayne McGregor's 'FAR'.

Random Dance performers in Wayne McGregor's "FAR".

Photo © & courtesy of Ravi Deepres

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