Stored in Genes: Autobiography by Wayne McGregor

Company Wayne McGregor at Laban Theatre, London
January 26, 2018

Maria Salwińska

Everyone has the time to reflect on themselves and to reach deep into the puzzle of the human body. However, not everyone decides to translate the scientific records of their genome into motion and dance. With his latest Autobiography, Wayne McGregor once again proves his brilliance and the power of intellect.

This time McGregor takes an insight into the biological richness of human body and his individual DNA, deep in every cell. The piece is the first wave of further research, in which dancers enact excerpts from different life-stages of the choreographer. What makes it unique, is that while the first and last sections remain unchanged, the order of the middle has always ‘element of chance’, giving the dancers a challenge and a new taste at each performance.

Wayne McGregor's AutobiographyPhoto Richard Davies
Wayne McGregor’s Autobiography
Photo Richard Davies

The movement is characteristic to McGregor’s style: high extensions, classical straight lines combined with appealing fluidity and flexible upper-bodies. The dancers with their sculptural muscularity amaze the audience by presenting skills and abilities to reach extremes of each movement. In contrast, the structure of the piece is unusual for the McGregor. Particular scenes are diversified and each tell a different story, so the viewer is constantly assailed with new information rather than being overloaded with the same movement. The score, by electronic musician Jlin in partnership with Unsound, is consequently tailored to the individual part of the choreography. Therefore, the auditory senses are permanently stimulated by mechanical and pulsating sounds, pleasantly contrasting with melodic interludes.

The costumes, by Aitor Throup, clearly define the dancers’ bodies with layers added and removed during the piece but always careful to reveal the dance. Nevertheless, much of the work’s success is the utterly masterful lighting design by Lucy Carter, who maintains a long-standing cooperation with Wayne McGregor. It once again shows the power of illumination, the eternal game between light and shadow, and these effects willy-nilly drag the audience into the depths of the performance. Add to this the innovative set design by Ben Cullen Williams: glowing, movable metal bars over dancers’ heads, and the audience enters the space as the lab to explore what is unknown.

Overall, there is much happening during the Autobiography. The spectacle lifts the veil of secrecy about the capabilities of biological processes and knowledge of human cognition. full To fully understand the brilliant choreography and the magnitude of work certainly requires effort and consciousness, though.