Created by celebrated dance director Wayne McGregor, Atomos is a highly ambitious feat says dancer Jessica Wright

Atomos promises to merge art and science. How does that come across in the performance?

I can’t really speak for Wayne but I can talk about my experience of it. Wayne took a film he loved, the original Blade Runner, and grew something new out of it. He hijacked and scavenged aspects from it, whether that was colour, tone or mode. That was the starting point. One of the ways that comes across is atomisation and pixelating. We took an image and imagined we were zooming out extremely far and looking from it from a very removed position.

How is that theme represented in the set design?

The set looks like it is pixelated like a stretched computer image in all different kinds of pink. The visual projection is an extremely zoomed-in picture of a pair of lips. We also worked with this machine called Becoming, which we referred to as the eleventh dancer in the studio. It’s like a thinking body. It basically takes elements of Blade Runner and warps and twists them. It’s like an abstract translation of Blade Runner. It’s also in 3D. As dancers, we reacted to that.

One review said the show explores “what it means to be human”. Is there a tension in Atomos between human physicality and technology?

It’s interesting they picked up on that, given that Blade Runner talks a lot about what is human and replicant robots. We quote a piece from the text of Blade Runner at one point in the show, like a mantra. In all the years I’ve worked with Wayne he has a constant fascination with technology.

There’s a lot of discussion nowadays between humanity and robots, and that can be a conflict. Within the dance there is a desire to push humans to the limits of their bodies. It’s a challenge for a dancer because there’s always that idea that a robot could do it better. Wayne is very interested in the possibilities technology brings, too, and the piece brings that to light. It’s not a conflict – Wayne embraces both and is interested in the cross-section between the two and how that can be an amazing collaboration.

You usually think of technology in terms of capturing human behaviour, but when the dancers are emulating the movement of computer pixels I suppose that is reversed.

Yes. It was strange for us to work with that technology. What the audience will see is the human body and our physicality but there are also screens with 3D images in the show. It’s multi-layered and it’s never like ‘which one is better?’ It’s how we can use humans and technology to take the performance better.

It seems like it would be difficult to get across such complex themes in a non-verbal art form. But can it be exciting for you as a dancer?

I don’t think the work desires to be explicit. For us, it’s always interesting to have those concepts in mind but the work is abstract so we’re not trying to convey any literal message. We want to provoke a thought in an audience member and get them to answer some of those questions. We don’t want to say ‘this is what we think’. It’s more of a provocation.

Does Wayne have any control over Atomos now, given it has been running since 2013?

It naturally shifts away a bit, because he is constantly busy with the newest projects. We’ve got a new studio now, though, so we have a lot of contact with Wayne and it’s an ongoing dialogue. A piece is never finished. We always have new dancers in so there are new dancing partnerships which always freshens it up.

We don’t have the same bodies as three or four years ago – I’m not the same person as I was back then. It’s always living. It’s coming up to five years since we made it and Wayne has toured with us a lot.

Does he offer up direct advice to the dancers?

It’s always very interesting to revisit a piece with him. When you first make it it’s so overwhelming and you’re desperately tying to make sense of it all. Once you’ve performend it for a while it can become automatic, so it’s alwasy great when Wayne comes in and says, ‘this is what I’m thinking about this’. He doesn’t share all of his insight but he often adds layers of information that might have been in his mind for years and years.

As we’re always changing as dancers, he’s always changing as an artist. It’s always extremely refreshing to get his inspiration and input. I always look forward to that moment.

Atomos, Connaught Theatre, Worthing, February 6,