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Tree of Codes

Tree of Codes at MIF. Photo: Ravi Deepres
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Who would have thought that a book full of holes could be made into a ballet full of dazzling multi-sensory surprises. Inspired by Safran Foer’s art-book of words and phrases snipped out of Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles, from the moment dancers with white LED lights dotted on their bodies create an optical braille in the dark, while moving to music that triggers instant emotional goosebumps, it’s obvious that this inspired Manchester International Festival world premiere is no run-of-the mill contemporary dance piece.

Collaboration has always been MIF’s creative watchword: it certainly pays off here. Between them, choreographer and director Wayne McGregor, remix maestro Jamie xx, visual design wizard Olafur Eliasson and dancers from Paris Opera Ballet and McGregor’s own company unite to seduce the audience into entering a spellbinding sensual space where a combination of body imagery, sound, light, colour and theatrical illusion go beyond modern and classical ballet and into what feels at times like a new fourth dance dimension.

Technically, the production is a state-of-the art visual and acoustic treat, climaxing with an extraordinary illusional sequence where translucent mirror and lighting effects transform dancing bodies into a succession of fleeting blurry mirages.

Musically, Jamie xx delivers a multi-layered, rhythmical soundscape that resonates through the company’s constantly moving energy stream of jerky bodily motifs, animalistic twitches and charming otherworldliness.

Foer’s original cut-out narrative is about a character facing extinction. By de-coding the gaps, McGregor and company have created a multi-textured performance language of their own that will surely enjoy a very long life from now on.

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A truly collaborative process lies behind the extraordinary artistic triumph of this new contemporary ballet