Wayne McGregor's new short ballet Carbon Life premiered last night at the Royal Opera House as the finale to a triple bill that began with Christopher Wheeldon's 2001 Polyphonia and Liam Scarlett's new Sweet Violets (of which more later).
The promise of costumes by Gareth Pugh lured fashion faces like Rick Owens and Pam Hogg, but if Mark Ronson's live music had pulled in any popstars, I'm afraid I failed to spot them. Not that there would have been any room - the show has been sold out for weeks.
An orchestra was originally scheduled. But the pit remained empty. No idea why. It seems to have been a late decision: the programme still mentions 'orchestrations'. Is this why there were a couple of loooong silences in the middle of the piece?
Instead, Ronson and his band lined up at the back of the stage and nothing but their loud dancey rock pounded out of the speakers. Alison Mosshart from The Kills did most of the singing, sometimes prowling amongst the ballerinas in her hedgerow hair and flowing coat, and a long lineup that included Boy George pitched in for the rest.
Anyone who went purely for the choreography may have been disappointed at the lack of anything truly groundbreaking. The twitchy contortions harked back to earlier McGregor pieces. The large scale ensembles that opened the work were plain and repetitive, though the later pas de deux showed more expressive imagination.
But the movement complements the music's aggressive edge and the brutal simplicity of Gareth Pugh's costumes. Beginning in flesh-coloured underwear, the dancers graduate to black, then develop strange crystalline excrescences on their heads and limbs, culminating in origami tutus and the 'how do you dance in that' block-toed black cuissardes seen in the photo at the top. An alien-like glow surrounding each dancer at the start of the work was the most spectacular of many fabulous lighting effects.
*more photos below*