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Wayne McGregor | Random Dance Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London


It’s twenty years since Wayne McGregor founded Random dance. He’s celebrating with this programme of new works by young choreographers – from within Random and from the Royal Opera House, where McGregor is resident choreographer of The Royal Ballet.

The sleek dancers come from both companies, too, with a starry guest appearance by Royal Ballet dancers Edward Watson, Paul Kay and Eric Underwood.

Alexander Whitley, Paolo Mangiola and Robert Binet all show a clear McGregor influence, though all three tend to soften the extreme bendiness of his style, going for lyricism more than force.

Whitley’s Hertz has a mood of hushed serenity, inspired by ideas of light. It starts with pairs of dancers moving in unison, each lit a different dim colour by lighting designer Michael Smith. Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score mixes hushed strings and wordless vocals.

Whitley, a Random dancer whose work is encouraged by both The Royal Ballet and Sadler’s Wells, has an eye for detail. When one couple rise slowly onto their toes, the footwork is so high and clear that I wondered for a moment if this contemporary dance included pointework. As more dancers emerge from darkness at the front of the stage, the pairs move out of unison, flowing into more complicated patterns. 

In Alpha Episodes, Random’s Paolo Mangiola puts his three Royal Ballet stars into a trio, holding hands like male graces. Mangiola aims to explore masculinity, but his dance turns in on itself, becoming a sequence of intricate stretches. Still, it’s fun to see these dancers close up, in the intimate Linbury space. Watson gives his steps an art nouveau curve; a twitch in his midriff kicks out into a high leg extension. Underwood is clean and cool, with focused classical lines; Kay has explosive force.

Robert Binet, choreographic apprentice at The Royal Ballet, opens Life’s Witness with an image of action and watching. As a string quartet from Southbank Sinfonia play minimalist music live on stage, some of the cast dance duets. Others sit on the floor, legs curled up to one side, calmly observing them. The duets look detached; those dancing pay less attention to each other than the watchers do.

One woman dances a solo where she appears to be frightened of her own foot. She extends it, wiggles her toes, then arches furiously backwards, ending in a crumpled heap on the floor. Singer Melanie Pappenheim wanders on stage, moving among the dancers. Life’s Witness is busy and episodic; Binet seems to want to put everything in, without editing.

Until 24 November. Box office 020 7304 4000