Tree of Codes

A pop-elec­tron­ica score by Jamie xx, a sys­tem of mir­rors by artist Ola­fur Elias­son, and Wayne Mc­gre­gor’s chore­og­ra­phy: this is dance like you’ve never seen it

Time Out (Melbourne) - - MELBOURN FESTIVAL -

HOW DO YOU chore­o­graph a book? If you’re Bri­tish chore­og­ra­pher Wayne Mc­gre­gor, you ask for the en­tire book to be printed in A4. Then, you stack the pages one on top of the other, so the pile of pa­per mea­sures close to a me­tre and a half. You take each page, read it, mull it over, and trans­form the words into a chore­o­graphic lan­guage com­pre­hen­si­ble to a dancer (and gib­ber­ish to any­one else). The book in ques­tion was no or­di­nary novel – Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2010

Tree of Codes, com­prised of lay­ered snip­pets of Foer’s favourite novel,

The Street of Croc­o­diles by Bruno Schulz, and de­signed in such a way that peo­ple are lit­er­ally forced to read between the lines. “Jonathan’s words are po­etic vi­gnettes that over time un­fold in a beau­ti­ful way,” says Mc­gre­gor, us­ing his hands to demon­strate the un­rav­el­ling. It’s sum­mer in the UK and rain is tap­ping at the win­dows of the Stu­dio Wayne Mc­gre­gor in east Lon­don, where Mc­gre­gor and his com­pany re­hearse, cre­ate and co­hab­i­tate in a series of stu­dios and open-plan ar­eas. “As I worked through the book, I ex­per­i­mented with loads of dif­fer­ent strate­gies,” he says. “Some­days I’d trans­late the lit­eral mean­ings of the words Jonathan wrote. Other days, I’d trans­late it emo­tion­ally; how I felt about what I was read­ing. And other days I’d trans­late the holes, the words that weren’t there.” Mc­gre­gor read Tree of Codes not long af­ter it was pub­lished; it sparked an idea and he tucked it away for safe­keep­ing. When Manch­ester Fes­ti­val came calling a few years later with a com­mis­sion, top of his mind was a project with Ola­fur Elias­son, the Dan­ish-ice­landic artist in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned for his mon­u­men­tal in­stal­la­tions that marry light, vi­sion and move­ment. “I men­tioned Tree of Codes to Ola­fur and turns out he knew Jonathan. He was in­trigued to see how a book that he’d writ­ten based on an­other book would be trans­lated for the stage.” En­ter Jamie xx: ac­claimed remixer, pro­ducer to pop roy­alty and one third of the xx. “It was a funny group, be­cause we all have such dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties... Jamie’s su­per quiet. And Ola­fur’s quite gre­gar­i­ous. He used to be a break­dance cham­pion. He’s ready to kick off his shoes and get in there.” Next came the dancers. Mc­gre­gor re­cruited some from his own com­pany, some from the Paris Opera Bal­let and set aside ten weeks for col­lab­o­ra­tion and cre­ation. “Ev­ery day we would come in with a dif­fer­ent ap­proach,” he says. “I’d be work­ing with my pages and Ola­fur was work­ing on the light­ing, and Jamie was writ­ing mu­sic and we were all mak­ing stuff.” Vanessa Keys

Arts Cen­tre Mel­bourne, 100 St Kilda Rd, Mel­bourne 3004. 03 9662 4242 www.fes­ti­val.mel­bourne/2017/. $30$199. Oct 17-21.

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