The Humanity of Dance

Inspiring new work by choreographer Wayne McGregor

Esther Lawton


Esther Lawton

The Humanity of Dance

WAYNE McGregor’s intriguing new work, Atomos, has changed the way I view his choreography.

The piece begins with the pulsating, breathing mass of dancers moving like a formless being, the stage obscured with smoke. The ensemble is bathed in a blooded light, the dancers climbing, lifting, descending, rippling and swaying, with the odd foot seeming to fly, hips and ribcages reaching into the surrounding darkness.


As Atomos unfolds, the dancers swell and retreat, separating slowly, one by one to engage in two by two, flashing duets. Touching bodies sink into
each other in increasing, relentless meetings. The responsiveness of the ensemble captivates me, as they
sightlessly respond to just one of
their member’s motions. Flickers
of wrists, green arms and pelvises
pierce through the assaulting
choreography, with the performances of James Pett and Travis Clausen-Knight prominent.


Most mesmerising, in Atomos, are
the images McGregor inscribes with these athletes upon the auditorium’s air and bodies, imposed alongside
the obscure and cuttingly-defined scenes projected from the five screens above the stage (filmmaker Ravi
Deepres). As images blur and refocus, fresh pictures dance forth in sharp relief only to fall instantly back in kaleidoscopic mirages of events. Watching becomes overtaken with questioning… did I really see that, or was that just my eyes?


Set to a harrowing score by ambient composers, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, McGregor layers images
upon images. As I watch, I see a kiss betraying a forehead, a colonizing creature in an orb-like cluster where green life turns to hues of flame, devouring bodies. Projected over the stage and ominously rising is a laser red line, oppressing the dancers beneath its glare (lighting, Lucy Carter).


The dancers are dressed in skin-tight colours of earth, stomachs and legs revealed; costume baring McGregor’s favoured asymmetrical style
(designers, Studio XO).


Atamos has a fascinating complexity and depth which is found in most of McGregor’s work. I used to think his dancers were superhuman, like those going to endless means to ensure
their own survival in an unforgiving, industrious world. Now, more than ever, I am convinced of their, our, humanity.



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