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Company Wayne McGregor – Autobiography review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘bewitching and bewildering’

Company Wayne McGregor's Autobiography at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Andrej Uspenski
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Wayne’s world is increasingly informed by science. The thinking man’s choreographer, McGregor had his entire genome sequenced by the Genetics Clinic of the Future earlier this year. The resulting DNA blueprint forms the basis for 23 dance sequences that, according to the impenetrable programme notes, “are selected and sequenced afresh for every performance by an algorithm based on McGregor’s genetic code”. If that doesn’t get your juices flowing, I don’t know what will.

There is much to admire here: the ten dancers of Company Wayne McGregor – all of whom are fleet, lithe and extraordinarily malleable – and Lucy Carter’s lighting, which ranges from smoky red to blinding interrogation white.

Less convincing is by Indiana electronic composer Jlin’s score, which crosses borders from indigenous African music to mutated disco. But at least it keeps the work buoyant whenever Uzma Hameed’s dramaturgy threatens to drown it.

There is a notable softening of McGregor’s signature juttings and extensions, jerkings and contortions: the opening solo is fluid and beatific, arms flowing like ribbons of water. The nervous tics and simian gestures that interrupt the flow arrive later in ensemble pieces or duets as men and women play and fold over each other until a combative element intrudes with a sharp edge of violence.

The random order of sequences necessitates jumpcuts and juxtapositions that are disorientating and wilfully inconsistent. An animated physical conversation between couples over chairs arrives out of nowhere, a female duet turns into a fight and the lighting rig made of trapezoids suddenly descends to the floor, almost trapping dancers beneath it – like an Aztec death trap in an Indiana Jones movie.

What does it all add up to? Ultimately it’s difficult to tell whether this is a hollow spectacle of self-indulgent codswallop or a serious exploration of the internal architecture of an exceptional human being.

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Wayne McGregor’s piece based on his DNA sequence is bewitching, bewildering and occasionally boring