The Royal Ballet celebrate Wayne McGregor’s decade as resident choreographer with a triple bill featuring two ballets from his back catalogue and a brand new work. The latter, Multiverse, is an anxious piece for an anxious time, suffused with the McGregorian spirit of collaborative experimentation. The first section is set to Steve Reich’s 1965 It’s Gonna Rain, a looped recording of a Pentecostal preacher’s proclamations about the Biblical flood. The recordings slips in and out of sync so that the words deteriorate into a disorientating soundscape before morphing into coherence again.
Likewise, McGregor’s choreography creates an apocalyptic mood out of an exercise in formal rigour – following the separate sound loops, Luca Acri (replacing an injured Steven McRae) and Paul Kay dance an exhausting duet in unison and counterpoint. They’re atomised individuals whose truncated, angular phrases of movement seem poised on the verge of panic, and yet the precision never unravels. The second section cranks up the feeling of apocalyptic dread – images of present day migrants and Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa are beamed onto the heretofore blank graph paper walls of Rashid Rana’s set as fourteen dancers surge around the stage, their chaotic and jittery exchanges marked by fearful crouches and conciliatory touches. Runner, a specially-commissioned composition by Reich, accompanies the dancers into a more hopeful realm. There are a few longueurs, but the work ends with a singular, gentle sort of luminosity.
Chroma, with its gleaming minimalist set, jangly score and boneless physicality, was the work that bagged McGregor his residency at the Royal a decade ago. This revival is injected with a fresh vitality via the inclusion of five dancers from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, whose luscious musicality and attack complements the fine-tuned exactitude of the Royal Ballet bodies. It’s an inspired decision.
The evening ends with 2012’s Carbon Life, which features musicians belting out Mark Ronson’s tunes at the back of the stage as the dancers cavort and contort in angular costumes by fashion designer Gareth Pugh. Any aspirations to po-faced modishness are undercut by a decent level of campery and fun. Where else can you watch the ever-effervescent Marianela Nunez being spun around by two blokes in low-key gimp masks? Olivia Cowley and Edward Watson’s sassily sinuous duet is a delight, as is the sparring escapade shared by Francesca Hayward and Eric Underwood. I’m not sure the desiccated denizens of Kensington sitting next to me agreed, but here’s to another ten years of Stockport’s finest at the ROH.