Dance review: Wayne McGregor's Far pushes physical boundaries, but not much more

Acclaimed British choreographer Wayne McGregor presents Far at the da:ns festival 2014. -- PHOTO: RAVI DEEPRES
Acclaimed British choreographer Wayne McGregor presents Far at the da:ns festival 2014. -- PHOTO: RAVI DEEPRES

Far could have been a thrilling tour to the edges of physical possibility, but instead wound up as a meandering, aimless journey that went nowhere fast.

Part of the Esplanade's da:ns festival, the piece by Britain's Wayne McGregor and Random Dance drew inspiration from the 18th century Age of Enlightenment, a period when reason and science were hailed as keepers of the intellectual compass, and the mind-body relationship was investigated in a fresh light.

Ironically, it was a lack of progress that dulled the sharp edge of Wayne McGregor's hour-long choreography to a blunt, repetitive montage.

His movement vocabulary did explore the limits of the human body, and the 10 dancers from his company executed it to perfection.

It felt like an evolved form of ballet - McGregor is resident choreographer at The Royal Ballet in London - or ballet on steroids, if you will.

How far can a leg go? How fast can an arm move? How much can a head turn?

Classically clean lines were pushed to the extreme, with splits extending way past 180 degrees, knees turned out, and shoulders almost popping out of sockets.

Sometimes, it felt like each dancers' limbs were racing to get from point A to B as fast as possible, without crashing into each other.

The sheer unusual, alien quality of the movement made it fascinating to watch, but only for a while.

But once they had demarcated the boundaries of their physical vocabulary, there was no where else to go.

Far quickly stagnated into a metronome of arched backs, dislocated limbs and impossibly bendy torsos.

Though the movements themselves were performed at breakneck speed, there's no point going fast in a straight line.

The thrill of watching a piece is the sharp changes in the direction and pace which leave a show careening around the corners, but there was none of that here.

The 10 dancers rotated in and out of the spotlight like clockwork, with each staying on the stage for a few minutes at a time. The majority of the piece was performed with less than the full ensemble, so each group would come in, perform, and leave. Rinse and repeat.

One aspect which was enjoyable was the partner work, which boasted a tension and ferocity that the solo performances were lacking in. When facing off against one another, there was always a push and pull between two dancers, a meeting of two opposing forces which managed to bring a few sparks to an otherwise cold performance.

Even the much touted circuit board, with 3,200 LED lights, was no saving grace. The lights counted to 1,000, then backwards from 999,999. They raced in the background, they pulsated, brightened and dimmed.

But it is amazing that in a piece with such a huge amount going on, it felt like so little was happening. Far was a disappointment, made keener by the untapped potential of the movement's unfamiliar beauty.

lting@sph.com.sg

book it

FAR

Where: Esplanade Theatre

When: Wednesday, Oct 15, 8pm

Tickets: $20-$100 from Sistic (tel: 6348-5555, www.sistic.com.sg)