Regard it as a bifurcated upright, or a letter X with one-way hinges. For a person of average imagination, the raw material of the human form doesn't exactly suggest endless ambulatory scope. Yet Wayne McGregor is tireless in his search for new means of articulating the body. Never mind how limbs would naturally fall into sequence, even under the unnatural guise of dance. McGregor has ways of erasing humdrum habit. He has computers, for a start.
A techie from an early age, the 38-year-old has long used software, originally designed for gamers, to generate the grammar of his dances. Recently, he has immersed himself in applied neuroscience and maths, which immediately places him at the geekier end of the choreographic spectrum and tends to make people like me, who wouldn't know an algorithm from their elbow, not even want to engage with the hows and whys of McGregor's alien effects.
But in performance it's the physical rush of the thing that dominates: the mix of flickering detail with the bold, aphasic weirdness of the shapes the 10 dancers of his company, Random, strike. Robotic this is not. It's more like a total rewire.
Increasingly, though, the results on stage haven't just been about locomotion. McGregor's latest piece, Entity, which tours the UK till the end of the year – devotes 12 pages of explanation to its string-score by Joby Talbot, its electronic score by Jon Hopkins, the digital video design by Ravi Deepres , Lucy Carter's clubby lighting and Patrick Burnier's set – a monumental quadrangle of translucent plastic barriers that, midway through the show, suddenly rear up and grind into new positions like the crushers on the back of a dustcart (though I'm not sure the allusion is helpful).
I gather that even the white vests worn by the dancers are printed with the pattern of each one's DNA – though from as close as the stalls this wasn't discernible. Likewise, you didn't clock that the Navarra Quartet was playing live until its members staggered out on stage to take their applause, blinking in the light like laboratory rabbits.
In other words, McGregor's dance these days comes with an increasing number of knobs on, installed, on this evidence, for his satisfaction rather than ours. A bigger problem, though, is the dearth of emotional content. We instinctively look for human stories, but the search is futile here.
Limbs snap and tense, moving through positions with a speed that can only mean they are operating on blind motor impulse, bypassing the brain. Even the connections between dancers seem accidental. At one point a man grabs a girl's outstretched leg and leaves her dangling at the other end of it. Fetishistic, ungainly, spasmic, even spastic, this is certainly dance that doesn't look like anyone else's. You might say it looks like nothing on earth.
Wycombe Swan (01494 512 000) 7 May; Nottingham Playhouse (0115 941 9419) 10 MayReuse content