Continuing his commitment to collaboration, Wayne McGregor’s +/- Human not only brings together dancers from his own company with artists of the Royal Ballet, but also includes newly commissioned electronic music from Warp Records and a ‘Zoological’ art installation by Random International. During the day visitors can explore this installation and interact with its flying spheres as they react intelligently to their surroundings and the bodies in their environment. Pop- up performances from a range of young artists responding to the themes of the work complement McGregor’s dance piece performed in the evening.

Dancers from Company Wayne McGregor and The Royal Ballet in McGregor’s <i>+/-  Human</i> © Ravi Deepres | Alicia Clarke
Dancers from Company Wayne McGregor and The Royal Ballet in McGregor’s +/- Human
© Ravi Deepres | Alicia Clarke
During the evening performances a coronet of bright blue spotlights make the roundhouse look like the underbelly of a landing space ship. As white spherical drones glide across the cavernous turret, fifteen dancers stride onto the stage dressed in black underwear; plus and minus signs etched across their chests and stomachs. Under the fluttering drones following their every move and from behind a velvet rope separating audience and performer, the dancers’ nakedness seems particularly vulnerable in the darkness.

Wayne McGregor’s use of dance to explore human interaction with technology follows in the footsteps of Bauhaus Ballet and the modernist fascination with the boundary between machines and the human body. Random International’s drones are programmed using complex algorithms and motion sensors so that they react to their surroundings; McGregor’s dance work functions as both a response to these humming, hovering machines and questions the human by exploring possible relations and interactions with the non-human.

Full of expansive arm movements and weighted moves, McGregor’s new work is suffused with an unusual sense of calm restraint. While elements of McGregor’s characteristic rippling, angular movement vocabulary remains it is the dancers’ slow, lithe extensions that are emphasised. Their lengthened lines gesture towards the infinite darkness surrounding the stage. At moments, their serene movements and liquid limbs resemble skating. As they dance, drone shadows loom across the floor of the stage. At one moment a drone falls to the floor and a dancer lifts it gently skywards.

In addition to Edward Watson’s brooding presence, Fukiko Takase’s opening solo is commanding while Daniela Neugebauer’s sharp articulation and attack add a dynamic quality to the work. McGregor arranges his dancers into duets, trios and small groups; their naked torsos twist and curl around each other like classical statuary while their slowly repeated ports de bras creates a sense of hypnosis in sharp contrast to the soundtrack of electronic music.

Dancers from Company Wayne McGregor and The Royal Ballet perform in McGregor’s <i>+/- Human</i> © Ravi Deepres | Alicia Clarke
Dancers from Company Wayne McGregor and The Royal Ballet perform in McGregor’s +/- Human
© Ravi Deepres | Alicia Clarke

Occasionally looking up towards the ghostly spheres circulating, the dancers remain unmoved; their faces stony, resolute. Dancing together, their plus and minus signs become smeared, the dancers interaction results in change and reflects the electricity flowing between them. These temporary tattoos symbolise the philosophy of the piece: the passage of charge in a machine manifests only its capacity for work, but in us and the dancers the similar movement of charge mediates both our actions - and our every experience. It is this ability to embody philosophical questions, translating them into inventive and beautiful movement that makes Wayne McGregor’s choreography stand apart from the rest.