Striking Stage Design Worthy of a Museum Show

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I’ve been going to ballet and modern dance performances since I was a young boy. So, I would assume that I’ve seen all possible (and even impossible) movements of the human body one can imagine. But, last week at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center, during the dance performance by Company Wayne McGregor, I was astonished to see dozens of complex new movements and seemingly impossible extensions by the human body. I would compare it to hearing a poet who is not satisfied with 26 letters of the alphabet and invents additional letters.

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Company Wayne McGregor performs Autobiography. Photo credit: Andrej Uspenski. Courtesy The Music Center.

And that’s what British choreographer Wayne McGregor has done with Autobiography, turning his life story into dance in a mesmerizing show based on his own genetic code. And, if that was not enough to keep an audience on the edge, the lighting and set design was equally full of surprises and unexpected movement.

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Top: Company Wayne McGregor performs Autobiography. Photo credit: Andrej Uspenski. Bottom: Company Wayne McGregor performs Autobiography. Photo credit: Richard Davies. Photos courtesy The Music Center.

Suspended from the ceiling, metal geometric sculptural forms and constantly changing bright lights were always on the move, interacting with the dancers on the stage. I’d never seen before a dance performance where the set and lighting design were equal partners with the dancers.

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A Picture of Dorian Gray. Pictured: (foreground, L-R) Abe Martell, Tania Verafield, and Colin Bates; (background, L-R) Frederick Stuart and Daniel Lench. Photo credit: Craig Schwartz. Courtesy A Noise Within.

And, talking about going to the theatre and being struck by the inventive set design very much contributing to the performance – I am talking about going to A Noise Within theatre in Pasadena, where I saw a production of A Picture of Dorian Gray, based on the novella by Oscar Wilde. Take a look at the image accompanying this report on our site – it might look like a dance performance, but it’s not. Constantly changing set design, costume, and nudity tell you the story of Dorian Gray with extra drama. Lucky for us, this performance runs through November 16.

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Installation shots: Cao / Humanity. Ai Weiwei. UTA Artist Space. Photos by Edward Goldman.

When I had a chance to meet and talk with Ai Weiwei last week, I asked him which of his three current exhibitions in Los Angeles was most challenging. He took a second, then said, “the exhibition that will open at UTA Artist Space.”

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Installation shot: Cao / Humanity. Ai Weiwei. UTA Artist Space. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Of course, I went to see this exhibition, and what I discovered there explained what Ai Weiwei meant. Each of the three galleries at UTA presents dramatically diverse installations by the artist, with elaborately designed wallpaper setting the stage for a variety of porcelain, marble, and iron sculptures. The most striking of these three installations is one addressing the painful issue of millions of political refugees.

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Left and Right: Installation shots: Narratives in Glass. Palm Springs Art Museum. Photos by Edward Goldman. 

And, let me finish today with a suggestion that if you find yourself in Palm Springs before November 4, be sure to stop by the Palm Springs Art Museum to see Narratives in Glass, a full of surprises exhibition of contemporary glass sculpture. Most artists in this exhibition go beyond the decorative beauty and fragility of glass and treat it with a serious approach equal to working with stone and metal.



Kathleen Yore