McGregor’s Chroma is ravishing on all fronts, choreography, music and design. The latter is what hits you first, an enormous light box brilliantly designed by John Pawson. Stark and white, it’s a breathtaking void out of which dancers mysteriously emerge, while Lucy Carter’s lighting plays scintillating games with the wondrous sense of space.
McGregor’s driving, volatile choreography is so hyper-limber that it almost seems to occur at the cellular level. Every part of the body is disrupted with a scientific thoroughness, yet the mood shifts with the music, tough and ferocious one minute, tender and voluptuous the next. All the while an emotional current beats within the fevered muscles. Chroma may transport its ten dancers to an alien landscape, but it allows them to retain their human vulnerability when they get there.
Writing about the San Francisco première, Allan Ulrich for The San Francisco Chronicle doesn’t disagree:
In Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma,” the bodies of 10 dancers are folded, a bit spindled, but not exactly mutilated, and you watch this process unfold for 25 minutes with a measure of fascination and considerable detachment. Which is, perhaps, what the choreographer wants…
… The English choreographer constantly challenges his dancers’ technique, isolating limbs, twisting torsos, pushing them into precarious balances, constantly readjusting the center of gravity in a series of astonishing lifts, upturning bodies like saltshakers. Starshine illuminates the stage. Anthony Spaulding partners Dana Genshaft in a duet notable for its absence of straight lines. A terrific male pas de trois unites Pascal Molat, Isaac Hernández and Garen Scribner.
Although “Chroma” has been staged for other companies, McGregor has brought it home by capitalizing on San Francisco’s strengths. He spotlights Yuan Yuan Tan’s extensions and favors Maria Kochetkova’s speed, Frances Chung’s ardent attacks and Taras Domitro’s elevation. He is wizardly about redefining stage space, too.
He finishes, though, with a little doubt,
“Chroma” revels in its unpredictability, and you are not sure it will look the same on your next encounter. This can be an exhilarating sensation, but it suggests that what’s missing is an overall structure, a clearly conceived destination. The dancing stops when the music stops.
Photo: San Francisco Ballet in McGregor’s Chroma. © Erik Tomasson