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Wayne McGregor’s Tree of Codes review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘exhilarating’

Wayne McGregor's Tree of Codes at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Joel Chester Fildes

Wayne McGregor’s Tree of Codes, a work which sees his company perform alongside dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, is based upon Jonathan Safran Foer’s book of the same name.

Foer’s book is a dissected reworking of Polish writer Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles – with a pair of scissors Foer chopped his own story out of Schulz’s words and phrases.

Much like the book, McGregor’s Tree of Codes – first seen at the 2015 Manchester International Festival – plays with form and style. A collaboration with Jamie xx and artist Olafur Eliasson, the show deconstructs the act of viewing with artistic flair.

The opening feels oddly misaligned to the rest of the piece. Lights, attached to the dancers, bob about in pitch darkness. Instead of simple formations and patterns, McGregor opts for more fluid, detailed movement. When the lights alone are visible, this excessive movement seems a little pointless.

Despite an uncertain beginning, the piece becomes something quite striking. Mirrors allow for multiple views of the action on-stage – and occasionally provide the audience with a view of themselves.

Combined with McGregor’s complex and intricate choreography this makes for a visual feast. Phrases are scattered between dancers, reflected, repeated and re-partnered – yet the overall effect is never chaotic. The whole thing is performed with precision and fierce technical skill, with McGregor’s supple, articulate style finely tuned to the pulsating energy of Jamie xx’s score.

It’s a piece of relentless energy. With its bold colours and rich visuals, it’s a stylish and exhilarating production, a joy ride.


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An exhilarating, visually striking and relentlessly energetic contemporary ballet