Review: Alexander Whitley Dance Company’s Anti-Body

Alexander Whitley Dance Company’s Anti-Body is an exploration of movement and data that is a resounding technological feat, with dancers and motion responsive visuals set against an electronic soundscape.

The deeply intellectual mind and academic approach to Alex Whitley’s work sees three dancers interacting with a motion capture system, that is projected onto diffused screens as white and dark matter swirls, images, and essences of the dancers’ movement.

The technological requirements of the dancers and the tech system affects not only the visual output but the physical input. The dancers movement is firmly grounded in an almost fixed stance, legs firm freeing the upper body expression, giving the dancers a robotic-like aesthetic. 

Experiencing the dancers through the diffused screens drew analogies with the world in which we live, where life on socials and digital media is viewed through filters and effects, where we’re controlled by big tech and data driven algorithms.

The electro / synth / white noise soundscape blaring against the full stage tech visuals and the angular and repetitive dance was both impressive and overwhelming. The moments of black and silence were an unexpected relief, which remind me of the feeling of putting social media down and staring out of the window – the digital versus the analogue. 

Anti-Body raises questions about the future of dance and tech in a Meta world, with NFT art and cryptocurrencies. Watching dance through a screen made me want to see the dancers’ skin, to have that physical connection,  and feel an emotional response without the filter.

The intensity of the sound, the constantly changing visuals and the restrained dance become a tough hour in a small theatre, and it’s easy to imagine a Tik Tok Anti-Body series being liked by millions of people around the world, as it’s consumed in literal byte-sized moments. In the theatre it feels like the data is more important than the dance, but in the digital space it would be dance before data.

Reviewed at Sadler’s Wells, 8 October 2022.