It’s not often I actually manage to see a ballet here in Britain, never mind one as close to home as Manchester. However, just such a thing occurred recently, with the final showing of one of the most creatively inspired works I have ever seen, Tree of Codes.
The hour and a half, single act production was a collaboration between Wayne McGregor, Olifur Elliasson and Jaimie xx, of the band, The xx, as part of the Manchester International Festival. This was the initial draw for me; a combination of three extremely talented artists, each pushing the boundaries of their selected art form. Intrigued, I delved deeper… to discover a plethora of other fascinating aspects in relation to the piece. Naturally, McGregor’s company, Company Wayne McGregor, were to perform; a group of dancers I have always admired for their energy and athleticism. The pleasantly unexpected news was that they would be joined by dancers from the very classical Paris Opera- a juxtaposition of styles that I knew would be really exciting to watch.
The concept for the ballet stemmed from Jonathan Safran Foer’s book/piece of art of the same title; in turn, an ingenious creation that challenges the very act of reading, our relationship towards books and perception of what is written in them. Foer literally cut and rearranged sentences from another novel, The Street of Crocodiles, by Polish author, Bruno Schultz, to form an entirely new story.
In total, the rich and diverse collection of creative input gathered in transferring the ideas explored in Foer’s book on to the stage demanded I made sure I would be there to see it – and I most definitely wasn’t disappointed! Tree of Codes draws the audience in from the very start; a brilliantly experimental opening with nothing visible but the scattered formations of lights on the dancers’ black all-in-ones. Other fantastic theatrical effects include the use of mirrors, rotating structures and sections of the stage being separated from the audience, all to stunning effect.
I couldn’t take my eyes off Fukiko Takase from Company Wayne McGregor who danced with such power and depth, although the same could infact be said of the whole company who performed with a real vibrancy. The Paris Opera dancers added an ethereal quality, with their beautiful feet, and resonated and enhanced the physicality of Company Wayne McGregor; the contrast resulting in a dynamic equilibrium.
The whole number was entertaining from beginning to end; the music was entrancing, the sets like nothing I’ve seen before and the choreography electric. I feel so lucky to have seen Tree of Codes- it was an experience I’ll never forget.