If there was any doubt Liam Scarlett was put on this earth to make movement, the London premiere of his second main stage work Viscera has effectively elevated the 25-year-old Royal Ballet wunderkind to consummate choreographer. Sharing equal billing with two of Britain’s greats – Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon – Scarlett’s Viscera opened the Royal Ballet’s newest triple bill with the kind of wild abandon that some may argue can only come with youth.
Pulses are set racing from the get-go. A purely animalistic affair verging on the edge of sinister, Viscera’s stripped-back set and lush, saturated lighting proves the perfect environ for the dancers to explore the awkward, vulnerable, imperfect moments of our humanness.
There’s a thrilling informality to Scarlett’s choreography; spontaneous group sequences skitter into solos which spin-off into an ethereal pas de deux that moulds the bodies of Marianela Nunez and Ryoichi into one fluid being. The music and dance work in perfect harmony: Lowell Liebermann’s rough-and-tumble Piano Concerto no.1 op.12 often appears to be one step ahead of the dancers, giving the impression their bodies are hanging in mid-air, quivering for the next strain of music to push them further into the abyss. It’s obvious we’re witnessing the work of a man poised on the edge of greatness.
Wayne MacGregor’s Infra picks up the raw, simmering energy created by Viscera and promptly slams it up against the wall. Viewed side-by-side, it’s easy to spot similarities between the pair (both embody the same animalistic movement quality) but MacGregor’s work focuses more on specific, tangible imagery and less on abstract deconstruction. Human connection – or lack thereof – dictates every movement, every look, every touch. Every pas de deux seems more highly charged than the next, creating a overwhelming sense of desperation, as if time for true connection is running out. Max Richter’s static score and Julian Opie’s computerized set design only adds to the feeling of malaise in an over-hyped world.
Relationships are also put under the microscope in Christopher Wheeldon’s Fool’s Paradise. It’s dreamier than its predecessors: large shards of glitter cut an astute figure through the smoky air as they fall from heaven to earth, while film composer Joey Talbot’s ethereal score evokes the feeling of a specific time and place. The choreography is unequivocally Wheeldon, teetering between jaunty and mournful. The dancers play off each other beautifully, using their bodies to build suspense until the final sweeping sequence. It’s not as startling as Viscera or as moving as Infra, but Fool’s Paradise is the perfect, poetic endnote to a powerhouse triple bill.