Tag: Wayne McGregor

Melbourne Festival 2017: TREE OF CODES

Frenzy and reflection

By Myron My

When choreographer Wayne McGregor, composer Jamie XX, and visual artist Olafur Eliasson come together for a new contemporary dance production, expectations are high. Taking inspiration from Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2010 book Tree of Codes, this production of the same name is a stunning collaboration of movement, lighting, sound, and stage design.

Tree of Codes.jpg

Interestingly, Foer’s book was inspired by another book, Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles, a collection of short stories of a merchant family in a small town. Schulz story is full of metaphors, mythology and a blurring of fantasy and reality, and for his book, Foer cut out a large number of words and sentences from Schulz’s stories and re-arranged them to form new stories and ideas. Even the title itself is made up of the letters from Schulz’s book title.

McGregor’s Tree of Codes also uses the idea of imagination and truth, and it begins with a gorgeous opening sequence performed in total darkness with lights attached to the costumes of the dancer as they move their bodies like they were floating balls of light. Along with Jamie XX’s electronic pulsing beats, there’s a sense of a new beginning and mysticism, of some kind of awakening that is about to occur, and that is exactly what we get.

In true McGregor-style, the fourteen dancers are pushed to extremes in a complex and frenetic choreography with bodies constantly moving. The music and visual designs including rotating set pieces and mirrored walls are a feast for the senses, and together create the perfect duality of dreaming and reality, of being and of the metaphysical.

Seated on an aisle and not having the best sightlines for this specific production, the impact of the kaleidoscopic images on stage was not able to be appreciated to its fullest, but it was enough to give an understanding of what was trying to be achieved. The numerous reflections of the dancers on stage highlight time passing by and moving on. At times, the audience itself is reflected onto the stage via the mirrored set pieces, blurring the line between passive viewer of “life” and active participant and asking you to consider your own life and the choices you’ve made.

While there is much to be fascinated and awed by with Tree of Codes, at 75 minutes long I feel the work is stretched too thin as it moves towards its conclusion. Keeping the show around the 60-minute mark could have allowed the intensity of the performances and the effects of the design to remain fresh, with the images constructed on stage and those created in our minds being appreciated to their fullest.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne. 
Season: Until 21 October | Fri – Sat 8pm, Sat 2pm
Tickets: Full $69 – $219 | Under 30s $30
Bookings: Melbourne Festival

REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Presents VANGUARD

Mesmerising modern ballet reaches new audiences

By Ross Larkin

Few art forms command the same degree of discipline as that of dance. The absence of external tools, leaving solely the body as instrument, requires as much stability and fine-tuning as any solidly, hand-crafted alternative. The commitment is therefore not only a full-time one, but one which must be lived and breathed.


The Australian Ballet showcase this lifestyle to its full extent in their current production of Vanguard at the State Theatre. Three strikingly different pieces are presented back to back by highly accomplished choreographers George Balanchine, Jiri Kylian and Wayne McGregor with a beautifully, flawless outcome.

Opening with ‘The Four Temperaments’, originally choreographed by George Balanchine, performers are exposed under a stark, white light for the duration, with no external theatrical aids, save for the varied and glorious accompanying Orchestra Victoria. Viewers are hard-pressed to withdraw focus from the dancers’ palpable control and beautiful unity displayed with seemingly effortless execution.

Second offering, ‘Bella Figura’, raises the bar to stunning and mesmerising heights that impact the audience almost conspicuously. Rarely does one witness such effortless command of an audience’s attention. The moments of stillness and silence were breathtaking and captivating, and, unlike its predecessor, dramatic lighting and clever use of external elements were present in abundance, with particularly intriguing use of stage curtains.

The poignant direction of Kylian’s choreography encapsulated tasteful eroticism and tenderly seductive bodily engagement throughout, with unexpected comical moments in the form of puppetry dance.

Third piece, ‘Dyad 1929’, faces the challenge of following the former spectacular act, and initially feels slightly random and less focused, as the ensemble move frenziedly about a black polka-dot background to jarring, discordant music. Further into McGregor’s piece, however, the focus materialises with spirited passion and the gorgeously fluid dance proves as striking as its cousins, climaxing with the first male interaction of the evening.

The entire ensemble of Vanguard, each present for all acts, are graceful and flawless. Daniel Gaudiello, Lana Jones, Miwako Kubota and Calvin Hannaford leave impacting and lasting impressions, though every performer is worthy of mention.

Powerful and accessible, the Australian Ballet’s production of Vanguard is an experience deserving of a universal audience, and succeeds in moving viewers across all emotions.

Vanguard is playing now at the Arts Centre’s State Theatre with Orchestra Victoria until June 17, 2013