The NYC Dance Season Starts Off With a Bang!

September 14, 2015

Last night, Wayne McGregor’s Tree of Codes blasted into the vast Park Avenue Armory, with an awe-inspiring, light-as-architecture stage set by Olafur Eliasson and propulsive music by Jamie xx. The slash-and-burn dancers are drawn from both Company Wayne McGregor (the new name for Random Dance) as well as from Paris Opéra Ballet.

Tree of Codes, all photos ©Stephanie Berger.

This collaboration is “inspired by” Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel Tree of Codes. But like other works of McGregor’s I’ve seen, there’s a oblique relationship to the source and the choreography, so it’s best to simply absorb what McGregor calls the “sensory adventure” rather than try to crack the codes. (For an interview I did with the brilliant McGregor, read our 2013 cover story.) That said, I’m guessing that the codes have to do with reflecting, doubling and mirroring.

Marie-Agnès Gillot in Tree of Codes

A few of the light effects in the beginning seem to just delay the dancing. But at a certain point the momentum kicks in and you find yourself loving these dancers, while being wowed by the huge arcing shapes that crack open to reveal caverns of color. There’s plenty to look at, what with mirroring effects and a roving light targeting audience members, but nothing compares to the magnificence of featured dancer Marie-Agnès Gillot. A creature of sinewy strength, she stretches beyond her long arms and devouring legs with every move. There’s a hungry quality to her dancing that makes me sit up with alertness. She’s a breathing, sweating example of how a dancer can burrow into her own uniqueness. If this ballet were a story ballet, she’d be the spy who cracks the code. Or, with her solid trunk and ever-extending limbs, maybe she’d be the tree of codes itself.

Alvaro Dule in a scene that makes me understand the different -lighting mirroring better in hindsight.

Gillot and the other dancers illuminate McGregor’s restless, seething choreography. During the group sections, sometimes there’s so much commotion onstage that it’s good to follow a single dancer. For me that dancer was Alvaro Dule, who is light and wiry with a shock of dark hair. His elasticity and buoyant energy make it seem like he could dance all night. Other times it’s good to notice how the dancers converge or disperse, and how they handle the almost superhuman technical demands. McGregor’s speedy, pretzelly, body-yanking choreography must be as exhausting to do as it is exhilarating to watch.

Performances of Tree of Codes continue through September 21. Click here for tickets.