Wayne McGregor’s +/- Human is a stunning immersive dance performance questioning exactly what it means to be human.

I’ll admit, before the show I was sceptical – it sounded too complicated, too great an amalgamation of dance genres, electric music, and expressionist theatre to tie together and work as a unit. However, I was happily proved wrong: the concept behind the entire performance is actually mind shatteringly simple – an exploration of what makes us human and how we engage with the objects and world around us.

The Roundhouse is a huge dome-shaped space in which the audience can circulate. There are no seats and no barriers: open expression seems to be the concept encompassing this theatre and its message. The space was stripped back: the only light permeating the darkness upon entering was a string of piercing blue LED lights framing the space. The focus here is on movement, music, and expression, with a purposeful lack of distractions.

The power of the choreography and skill of delivery of the dance in this show are what give it its power. A line of humans, branded with either a ‘+’ or a ‘-‘ sign – humanity peeled back to its most simple, a binary coding of positive versus negative.

It seems like the dancers are learning about their own human existence alongside the audience

The floating spheres add a complexity to the show, giving nuances to explore the question of the human. They are programmed using complex algorithms and motion sensors to react to their surrounding and to bodies in their environment. Their movement almost seems human – reacting to each other without logic or structure, never quite touching but aware of each other’s existence. However, the balls needed a little more interaction with the dancers to fully do justice to the question presented here about the relationship between machines and human beings.

The dancers interact freely with each other and with the large spherical white balls floating above their heads throughout the performance. Their movements range from tender caresses to convulsions of electric strength.  Emotions are raw, impulsive, and often confused, existing within the seemingly simple divide of positive and negative. They dance together, alone or in groups, both working together and fighting against each other in alternate movements.

The struggle is palpable: against each other, themselves, and the floating shapes moving above their heads, close enough to see and to feel but never to touch. It seems like the dancers are learning about their own human existence alongside the audience, both of whom are on a journey of discovery.

As the show reaches its climax, the music crescendos and becomes more electric; the movements of the dancers more desperate and compulsive. There is a sense of urgency fuelled by the crashing beats of electro pop. It then gradually fades away until all that is left is the dancers, a series of humans consumed by their own self-expression. They slowly move out of the space and the audience is plunged back into darkness.

This short dance show is refreshingly different: the mechanical balls, stripped back performance space, and frank emotion of the dance allow for a modern consideration of questions of the positive and negative, and the complex social interaction between people. If you like a clear narrative (and maybe even a seat), then this show definitely isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to think outside the box a little and immerse yourself in an alternative method of dance and expression, then Wayne McGregor’s +/- Human might allow you to ask yourself some permeating questions about your own relationship with other people and with the world at large.


Imogen Cooper


Wayne McGregor’s +/- Human is playing at the Roundhouse until the 28th August, you can find more information here.

Images: Dancers from Company Wayne McGregor and The Royal Ballet perform in Wayne McGregor’s +/- Human ©RaviDeepres/AliciaClarke

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