From the captivating first moments of “Atomos” it is clear that Lucy Carter’s lighting design is less about theatrical lighting and more about architecture and atmosphere. Confined by her triangular shaped ray of misty white light at the corner of a dark stage, dancers sinuously undulate and bubble up in a microcosm. When this boundary of light is removed and they become free to ripple and surge the entire stage they float through a mist of otherworldly aqua green and pallets of color unique to theatrical lighting and to Carter’s one of a kind sensibility. Within this density of atmospheric light are the equally masterful, emotionally dense cellos strings, empty piano cords, and harmonic musical landscapes of –A Winged Victory For The Sullen—a collaboration between Adam Bryanbaum Wilzie and Dustin O’Halloran. Their ambient soundscape is more substantial and melodic than those of Brian Eno and fill up the space like music floating from the depths of the sea to it’s surface—the surface here being Carter’s lighting. The music creates another atmosphere, another layer of patterns, for the stellar Company Wayne McGregor to wade through.
And, move they do for the entire 75 minutes nonstop, tirelessly going through McGregor’s physically complex and visionary choreography. “Atomos,” like all of his dances, incorporates every classical ballet move only barefoot and use ballet only as one word in a revolutionary languages that points dance further into its multimedia, techno future. The piece feels more like a museum installation than a theater performance, perfectly balanced between all the elements. Dancers roll, tumble, spring up, fall down, extend and, pirouette in close physical contact, in constant yet, impersonal relationships void of emotion and sensuality. They create lines of patterns with bent elbows, forearms up, or with arms that cut in front of each other that mirror similar light patterns projected onto the scrim behind them. Daniela Neugebauer appears to spend as much time in the air being catapulted across the shoulders and arms of other dancers as she does mesmerizing across the stage floor, and Alvaro Dule’s poetic gymnastic muscularity, fluid stature, and timing is breathtaking. Studio XO’s wearable interactive fashion; a state of the art athletic wear and futuristic costuming of minimalistic design also handsomely shows him off. Costumes are smart geometric and asymmetric designs in grays, charcoal, taupe, and green adding yet another layer of patterns to “Atomos” while functionally supporting dancers with their trajectory.
To this multitude of layers and substantial foundation filmmaker and photographic artist, Ravi Deepres adds his three-dimensional art as TV screens randomly descend into the stage halfway through the performance. The screens appear like lamps that broadcast abstract and environmental images on all screens at the same time that the audience witnesses through 3d glasses. What could potentially be a tawdry gimmick, in fact, makes greater use of 3d than what is seen at the cinema. As dancer move under and in front of the screens, becoming background to them, cubes of images seem to move from the stage out into the audience expanding the orthodox space of the stage into the entire theater. Yes, the dancers and choreography become secondary to this intrusion but the piece is lengthy enough and its theme about abstract realms of relationship—the relationship of atoms which are not confined by space but define it. At one point during this segment dancers take their only time off the stage as prerecorded black and white close-up images of them dancing appear on the screen monitors. These projections feels like a homage to the masterwork and collaboration between veteran choreographer Lucinda Childs and fine artist Sol LeWitt called “Dance” (1979) where LeWitt used a black and white film of the dancers dancing the same piece as the set with dancers moving in front of it.
The complex overlays of “Atomos” and the speed with which it is danced will only make it worth seeing again as it’s impossible to take in this contemporary masterpiece all at once. McGregor’s genius and his multiracial ensembles of dancers (Patterns within patterns, relationships interacting with relationships) are showing us that the future of dance is now—a future perfect.