Tech-savvy dancers play fast and loose
Random Dance delivers a furious mix of sounds, styles
If the innovative amalgams of dance, electronic imagery and sound pioneered by Random Dance have become more commonplace, there's still plenty to distinguish the British company.
Random's language is 'closer to 'Blade Runner' than 'Sleeping Beauty,' ' in the words of The Times of London. Nothing glides from one place to another. The languid grace of the natural world is replaced by an almost robotic athleticism in which works often look more like gymnastic floor exercises than like dance.
On a furiously complex choreographic map, bodies snap and contort in the manner of '80s street dancers, necks and torsos always in play. And gender conventions are almost nonexistent, contributing to a milieu in which personality and narrative are hard to identify.
But the sheer kinetic volume of Random's work makes it impossible to ignore. And all of it, says Executive Producer Rebecca Marshall, comes straight from Artistic Director Wayne McGregor.
'He himself moves very quickly, he works very quickly, and he's very intense,' Marshall says. 'For him, the attention to detail is paramount. He demands a lot from his dancers.
'The physicality is very intriguing,' she says. 'It is very complex. Every hand gesture, every roll of the shoulder is rehearsed and re-created. It's not just an improvisation. It's exactly one of the trademarks of the movement style.
'We have been labeled as a technology company, but the most remarkable thing is the live dance,' Marshall says. 'The dancers are the true deliverers of the work.'
In Portland, Random Dance will perform two pieces taken from the full-length 'Nemesis,' which debuted in 2002 with original music by the electronic music composer Scanner. In a solo, McGregor will 'partner' with a monstrous alter ego.
'The animator took video footage of Wayne dancing and created a creature of that,' Marshall says. 'It is recognizably not human.'
A third piece, the 2003 'Polar Sequences,' features no video elements. 'It really relies more on the dance itself,' Marshall says.
McGregor founded Random Dance in 1992, determined to explore the intersection of dance and technology, bringing animation and virtual projection onstage. His innovative approach led to collaborations with ballet, theater and opera companies and work in television and film.
'We are known as a company that does use other elements and ties them into the work,' Marshall says. 'Back five or six years ago, we were one of the ones that brought that into a dance context.
'One of the strong aspects of Wayne's process is he does work very closely with the collaborators. The development of the photography and the images is built over time.'
Marshall says Random Dance's futurist attitude resonates with younger audiences, leading the company to perform in dozens of countries.
'That edginess, that connection with more current ways of movement, is something someone would pick up on,' she says. 'The company has had a lot of appeal around the world.'