This week saw the premiere of Wayne McGregor’s new show Entity, created for his own Random Dance company. It’s a thrilling piece of theatre that begins with a small, simple, silent Edward Muybridge animation of a greyhound running, and builds to a vast, ecstatic climax that sent us light headed and light-footed out into the night.
Entity is like the best science fiction film you can imagine. The setting and staging are almost brutally sparse: the dancers wear plain white t-shirts and black briefs, and the setting is essentially a pure white space. The action is intensely human: there is love, and death, and dread, and friendship. The themes are utterly contemporary: plague, oppression, artificial life. And the dancers seem post-human, their atheleticism borrowed from some future evolution of mankind, the simplicity of their clothes and haircuts androgynous and sexual all at once. It’s chilling, uplifting and beautiful: there’s an extraordinary sequence about halfway through, in which a virus seems to spread across the stage, killing off the dancers one by one, laying them in rows across the floor, that’s un-nerving and exquisite all at once. Like the finest science fiction, Entity is fiercely engaged with its time while developing a language all its own:
McGregor is one of dance’s best ambassadors. Firstly because he brings a dazzling curiosity about the world to an art form that can often feel very closed, endlessly referring back upon itself. And secondly because he understands that opening up is not the same as dumbing down. In films like the clip above, in events like his recent open evening at the Royal Opera House, and in the research and science projects that are integral to Random Dance, he offers audiences new ways into dance while constantly extending its boundaries. Dance is undeniably elitist, but it’s equal opportunities elitism: it’s not about who you are, but about how much you’re prepared to put into it. Entity offers no easy story, no easy message, no easy language to discuss what you’ve seen; but I’ve rarely felt an audience concentrate so intensely during a performance, nor experience such exhilaration at its climax.