Ignite, Royal Opera House, London

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The Independent Culture

With Deloitte Ignite, Wayne McGregor managed to create a festival where the queue for art/sound installations was as long as the one for free chocolate. Mixing arts and sciences, the three-day programme had free performances and events throughout a crowded opera house. True, the Green & Blacks tasting led to a polite stampede; but the queue for Ray Lee's sound work stretched through the foyer and up the stairs.

McGregor, resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet since 2006, is interested in using all the resources of its home building. This festival was planned as the first in an annual series.

The programme reflected McGregor's interest in science. Its focus on the senses stressed experiences using combinations of the basic five. A team led by the neuroscientist Dr Patrick Haggard did perception experiments with members of the audience. Cecilie Egeberg's installation Field of Feathers was followed by hand massages with scents.

Proprius, McGregor's contribution, was danced on a stage in the Piazza behind the opera house. The work was created for McGregor's contemporary troupe Random, plus 50 young people.

The starting point was proprioception – the sense of self. It was episodic, with sequences for groups of young people, for Random dancers, for combinations of both. Some had contemporary dance experience, some were interested in street dance, some were newcomers. McGregor balanced his cast nicely, moving smoothly from professionals to beginners. He got them using their bodies. Arms were at times tentative; backs were strong. One young woman in plaits and spectacles used her upper body superbly, pumping and shimmying.

The adults' dances included a duet for two men. Held horizontally by his partner, one bent to the floor and arched up, the movement velvety smooth. McGregor emphasised hands; the slow clasping gestures became sentimental. This was followed by a sharp solo for a woman, her hands pointing or held with thumb and forefinger in circles. As her hands stabbed and circled, she raised a leg into a high extension, then shifted her weight under it.

The dancers were often grouped in lines, before peeling off into solos or groups. One – adult or teenage – was often lifted by a group. Then they regrouped, joining other dancers, leaving the stage with a wave.

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