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Wayne McGregor’s Chroma/Multiverse/Carbon Life review – ‘a revelation’

Marianela Nunez and Matthew Ball in Multiverse. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Has it really been 10 years since Wayne McGregor’s appointment as the Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer? Was it a decade ago that we witnessed the white-knuckle ride of Chroma for the first time?

So it seems. The celebrated, cerebral and multi-award winning choreographer revives two of his most vibrant works and delivers his latest provocation in an evening designed to prevent complacency. The world premiere of Multiverse was much anticipated and turns out to be one of his most challenging works to date.

Set to a score by US minimalist Steve Reich – who celebrated his 80th birthday last month – it is a hard piece to like, however much one admires its technical virtuosity. Set against a giant graph paper wall it begins with a male duet attempting to negotiate Reich’s early experiment in tape looping It’s Gonna Rain.

The recording of a Pentecostal street preacher in 1965 it is distilled down to the title phrase and repeated until it slowly parts company with itself. The aural dislocation and delayed synchronisation is echoed by the dancers. It is the kind of sound used to brainwash enemy agents tied to a kitchen chair in an empty warehouse. As images of immigrants on leaky boats seep onto the screen the piece steers into the choppy waters of desperation and survival, helplessness and rescue. It strains for effect rather too much.

The inclusion of dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre refreshes Chroma beyond belief. The confluence of black and white and the muscular insouciance of Ailey’s dancers bring a new elasticity to the piece. A revelation.

Finally the human fireflies and the springy, mutated Health & Efficiency movement of 2012’s Carbon Life are supported by a rock band of the most sophisticated kind. It may dance in the shadow of Michael Clark but it is enormous fun nonetheless.

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A vibrant celebration of Wayne McGregor’s first decade at the Royal Ballet