Musings on the connection between body, mind and soul are a constant in the history of human experience. Scientists and artists alike over the centuries have mapped the relationship between heart and head.

On Tuesday night Wayne McGregor/Random Dance, performing “FAR” (2010) in a presentation by Northrop Dance at the Orpheum Theatre, posited that the 21st century version of this relationship falls within the continuum between digital and analog — at once electric and organic.

The London-based troupe features flat-out fantastic dancers who — setting aside difference in height and gender — seem created from the same Alberto Giacometti mold. Their limbs extend to the outer limits, backs arch beyond reason.

Although “FAR” was created by McGregor with the performers, his choreographic imprint is ubiquitous — and sometimes limiting. He is a master at drawing out a dancer’s kinetic lines to the nth degree, but emotional nuances are less present. “FAR” is a structurally and visually beautiful work that stimulates the brain but doesn’t really challenge it to feel.

The work unfolds on a blank stage, save for a large hanging set piece that looks like a circuit board. Patterns of light dash across it and numbers appear, inspiring thoughts of time’s passage, the logic within computer code or an odometer going fast-forward.

The dancers, moving below and in front of the board, are similarly precise in their actions, even as their bodies distort and torque due to some hidden breakdown in whatever “machine” drives their movement or the occasional hints of violence.

Lucy Carter’s lighting design is stunning, with hints of golden hues and cool blues piercing the bright white light. Composer Ben Frost’s pulsing metallic score haunts with soaring vocals using text adapted from “Flesh in the Age of Reason” by the late medical historian Roy Porter. But the sonic tones are also dark, with drill-like sounds that disturb the subconscious.

The lasting impression of “FAR” is a profound sense of alienation. The associations between body, mind and soul are never quite realized.

As a society obsessed with technology, we are drifting further from the elemental essence of being, represented in “FAR” by the use of actual fire in the opening moments. Art and science offer pathways back to our human core, but meaning itself is as elusive as a flickering flame.


Caroline Palmer writers about dance.