Voces

Arts Centre – Hamer Hall – 21-23 October 2016

Paying homage to six of her biggest influences, Sara Baras’ Voces is a series of short performances punctuated by recordings of short monologues from each of these artists delivered in Spanish. Six panels displaying the faces of these artists line the stage, each of which is given a spotlight before their corresponding performances.

Baras is undoubtedly talented. Her footwork is impressively precise, and she demonstrates masterful technique in the stillness of her upper body as she taps increasingly faster in her signature style. However, she does not deliver much beyond this. There is no story, and contradictory to Baras’ selected Antonio Gades monologue recording which discusses dance as an outlet of emotion, there is no emotion in Baras’ dancing. Her performance is a celebration of her technical skill showmanship rather than an expression of emotion.

Costuming and lighting decisions are frequently questionable, including the all-black suits against the black set, and the inexplicable blue lighting near the beginning of the performance. Baras’ strength does not lie here.

Baras clearly draws a crowd of adoring fans

With Baras’ fast pace and the rhythmic beat of the cajón, the performance is almost more of an auditory experience than a visual one. The rich, almost uncomfortably raspy vocals from Rubio De Pruna, Miguel Rosendo and Israel Fernández complement Baras’ performance.

Baras’ style and the intimate nature of the audience engagement seems incongruous with both the attempted show format and the choice of venue. Spanish speakers in the audience engage with Baras and her dance partner Jose Serrano throughout the performance, responding positively to moments of intimacy in particular. Excited cheers and exclamations in Spanish pepper the show. In one moment of physical closeness between Serrano and Baras, an audience member shouts out excitedly in Spanish. I learn that this loosely translates to “that’s hot!” An eruption of laughter from the stalls shows the audience’s support of this informal sentiment.

Although well-received by her adoring Spanish-speaking fans, Voces is not particularly accessible to a mainstream, non-Spanish-speaking audience. With each monologue delivered in Spanish, all vocals delivered in Spanish, and no narrative tying the segments together, the performance relies on the audience’s familiarity with the art form. Given the nature of the art form, this performance would also arguably be much better suited to a smaller, informal venue.

What The Water Gave Me

Melbourne Festival is now in full swing, with a plethora of amazing shows taking over our city for the next two weeks, among the very best of international touring works are others made more locally. Dance Territories, this year continues with strength choosing to present work that sits not quite within the realms of dance, with the work by Sarah-Jane Norman, also sitting within the context of installation all while drawing audience inwardly into this political charged worked that cuts a swathe through the idea  or concept of colonization here in Australia, TAGG spoke with Norman ahead of the season…

Sarah Jane what stance did you take when exploring or unpacking colonialism?

In making the works that comprise Unsettling Suite, the body of work which includes the three pieces I am performing and exhibiting at Melbourne Festival, I set out to explore the intergenerational echo of colonial violence as it is lived through though the body. I have found it to be true of my own experience as an Aboriginal person, as well as that of many people descended from ancestry which has been directly marked by colonial violence, disposession, slavery, genocide, etc- that the trauma experienced by our ancestors and older relatives is carried quite literally in our bones- it is an ineffable, complex, but very concrete physical sensation, this weight of history. I grew up in a country town which cashed big time on peddling a lace doillie view of Australian colonial heritage, in which the brutality of the settler history was overwritten by pseudo-victorian country quaintness. This is the sort of thing which probably seems quite harmless and charming to a lot of Australians who are happy to spend a weekend taking devonshire tea at a stately homestead without giving much thought to how many Aboriginal people might have been disposessed or killed by the pastoralist who built it, not to mention the extent to which the living descendents of that clan continue to be affected. We carry the weight of this violence in the depths of our beings- diving in and attempting some understanding of how that grief is lived on a daily basis- through the body- is part of a bigger personal and political process which I aim to engage through my work, and I invite audiences to join me in that. Non-Aboriginal people seem to have a hard time engaging with the truth of Australia’s history and their complex position as the beneficiaries of violence. When the rules and mythologies of the dominant culture are weighted in your favour, it’s very easy to retreat into collective denial. This land was stolen by force from our ancestors, who never ceded their Soverignty. This history remains shamefully unacknowledged, because to admit to a theft of such a scale is to destabilise the legitimacy of Australian nationhood. This denial of history and its continuing consequences creates an enourmous subliminal tension in the Australian psyche- the overwhealming guilt, shame and instability which underpins it has generated an Invasaion Complex- why do you think Australia patrols its borders so strictly? Why we think it is acceptable to violate the rights of refugees? Because Australia is terrified of losing what it unlawfully and violently stole in the first place. When i called the series “Unsettling Suite”, this was the kind of un-settling i was calling for. Australia will remain in a state of arrested development- culturally and politically- until this history and the continued marginalisation of Indigenous people is atoned for and addressed. Saying “sorry” is a start, but it is not enough. It’s also not enough to make room for Aboriginal stories and voices only as far as they are pleasing or digestible for white audiences. There is a range of aesthetic and thematic conventions that have come to define Aboriginal art as it  is recognised by the white gaze. My work fulfils none of them. As a contemporary artist I am looking for a new language to speak of a deep and complex grief, and my work is a direct invitation for audiences to meet me in that process. I want audience to get close to that process- we are all implicated in this history, we all have to live with it and with ourselves.

What can audience expect from this work, is it at all political?

Well, my work is engaged with the politics of de-colonisation, so yes. De-colonisation means a lot of things- on the one hand, it involves very concrete political goals. It also involves work that takes place on the symbolic and discursive levels, which is where I am best equipped to contribute as an artist. Artists and intellectuals have always been an important part of social movements because it is part of our job to expose the interlocking joins of oppressive power structures as they operate at a symbolic level, and invite an audience into a deeper consideration of those dynamics and where they might stand withing them. In a Western tradition, you can make an arguement that art is always political, even (maybe especially) when it claims not to be (because there is no such thing as political neutrality). For Aboriginal people, art making has always been intrinsic to our cultural and political survival and resistance- and yes, as a people who have been and continue to be systemically oppressed and marginalised in this country, when we make art as an assertion of our existence, of our sovereignty, of our culture and agency- of course it is political.

Explain to us the strengths and weakness presented by the marriage or cross pollination of artistic forms

I am generally distractable, over-curious and strongly averse to anything that calls itself authority- so the interdisciplinarity of my practice is arguably a product of my temperament. I could never be monogamously married to a single discipline, not because i’m a flake but because the questions that i want to ask as an artist often necessitate calling on a range of technical or artistic pallettes in order to be fully realised. Much of my work is invested in exploring states political and experiential liminality as i understand them- I am a queer, indigenous artist, who is culturally Blak but physically white- passing, who is non-binary gendered but currently feminine presenting, with a complicated and contradictory class background- so my choice to work at the borderlines of disiplines is perhaps reflective of where i am coming from as a person who exists largely at the unstable interstices of identities/selves. Those are the strengths. The weaknesses? It’s a lot of work and you feel like an imposter 99 per cent of the time. It can also be hard to find your place when the the world of cultural production in general is so clearly divided along disciplinary lines, you have to code-switch between one space and the next depending on the context you find yourself in.

What has been your biggest inspiration when creating this work for Dance Territories?

All of the works that make up the Unsettling Suite were first concocted on either the 9 hour bus ride south (through Gundungurra and Yuin country) from Sydney to the south coast, or on the train north from Sydney, through Darkinjung and Gaewegal country, northwards to Newcastle. I generally seed my ideas in Australia, almost always when in the bush or travelling through country, and take them overseas to develop them and refine them- I work regularly in the UK in Europe, and have kept a base in Berlin for the last 8 years. I don’t have a studio- I have most of my best ideas in transitory space- airports and trains, and hotel rooms. Or in the bath. A lot of my work is derived from unpicking complex physical and emotional states so i suppose these liminal kinds of spaces give me clarity. I do remember that The River’s Children was one of those rare cases that arrived as a bolt from the blue- I was on a residency in rural Portugal and I took an afternoon nap, and in the space between sleeping and waking the whole piece just arrived in my mind. I had been staying near a river and washing my clothes in river water every day, and hanging them to dry outside on lines which were strung across a circular planting of eucalyptus trees.

How is the audience pulled into this work, and is their involvement a catalyst within the work?

In the case of these two works, then audience are involved very directly, in that both works make direct invitations for the audience to either offer something or consume something that is offered to them. For me, i seek to centralise the audiences body within the experience. This is a huge part of both my artistic and political praxis. I am totally disinterested in being a spectacle for the audience’s gaze- i am the facilitator and the co-agent of an experience which hopefully has many layers. I am much more interested in what an audience member feels or carries of a performance three days or six months or ten years after they have seen it that what they experience in the moment- though of course this is important too. I try to engage, however subtly, as many of the audiences five senses as i can in every work because i want as much of the flesh engaged and present as possible.

Dance Territories opens on the 14th of October, a double bill, The Rivers Children and Take This For It Is My Body will be presented alongside of the work of french artist, Nacera Belaza who will be presenting The Shout for more info click here

 

Tanderrum

Over the past four years, to mark the commencement of Melbourne Festival the five clans of the Kulin Nation: Wurundjeri, Boon Wurrung, Taungurung, Dja Dja Wurrung and Wadawurrung n welcome us to country in Tanderrum, a ceremony that up until recently had not been performed here in Melbourne since 1835.

These are the first words spoken before the 18 days of stories and sensations that will follow: an opening ceremony and Welcome to Country by the First Peoples, the traditional custodians of this land. Through Tanderrum, we acknowledge the lore of the creator spirit Bunjil and pay respects to the vibrant living culture of this country.

Photos by Timothy Treasure

 

From Shakespeare in Hindi to tackling human trafficking: the best of OzAsia festival

One of the best offerings from this year’s OzAsia festival was Vertigo 20

Sometimes the weather simply won’t cooperate. Between a state-wide blackout, monsoonal rain, and the worst winds ever, Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival, which finished on Sunday, faced a bumpy ride in its tenth anniversary year.

For some, this meant missing out on Japanese choreographer Hiroaki Umeda’s pixelated video storm in Split Flow and Holistic Strata, cancelled amid actual howling gales and pelting rain.

Yet despite the meteorological conditions, the festival was a convincing celebration of the vitality of an Asia of which Australia is increasingly a part.

For us, six performance works stood out for their bold placement of the body centre-stage: Softmachine Rianto, an Indonesian-Singaporean dance and video collaboration; Skin, a challenging work from Malaysia on human trafficking; Cambodia’s Phare Circus, in which performers perform the seemingly impossible; As If To Nothing, a Hong Kong dance piece on the mutability of memory; Twelfth Night, a Hindi version of Shakespeare’s beguiling gender comedy; and , an astounding blend of previous work by Israeli choreographer, Noa Werthheim.

Softmachine Rianto
Softmachine Rianto.

Softmachine Rianto, directed by Singaporean Choi Fa Kai, features the kinesthetically brilliant and versatile Indonesian dancer Rianto. Each of Rianto’s dance sequences was followed by a self-revelation, conveyed through direct address to the audience and snippets from Choi’s documentary on the dancer.

Rianto entered the stage wearing the refined female facemask used in Javanese topeng, enacting the dance of a princess pining for her lover. At first the point seemed to be just seeing a strongly gendered female role danced by a man with such precision. Yet successive segments asked us to question how gender is presented both onstage and in real life.

We saw Rianto, variously, as a sexy woman in a popular Javanese dance form, a brilliant contemporary dancer, and a male dancing sensually for an audience of men. Along the way, we learnt that he works in Japan, is married to a Japanese woman, and lives a life as complex and fluid as his dancing suggests.


Skin

Skin.

Skin, by the Malaysian collective Terryandthecruz, placed the audience in the stage work itself. Malaysia, currently home to more than 90,000 refugees, is a significant destination and transit point for human trafficking in the region. Rather than showing us “the plight of the refugees” and seeking a “sympathetic” response, the show put us in the skins of those being processed at the hands of strangers.

Patrons assembled at a pre-arranged point and filled out forms that ominously released the producers from any liability, and asked participants, now in the role of refugees, to assess their looks, intelligence, tax contributions, and willingness to learn the Malaysian language.

All personal effects were surrendered before we reassembled in another building to be interrogated individually, then arbitrarily placed into two groups and prohibited from speaking. One group was singled out for harsher punishment and provided with yellow blindfolds. A single individual was escorted from the building wearing a red blindfold.

Both the yellow and favoured “green” groups were led into a shipping container, and faced a large opening. The wall of an adjacent container then opened, revealing a stark, white tiled room. Three dancers presented abstract, yet emotionally resonant images of bodies experiencing privation, abuse, and pain. The container filled with bodies, sometimes swallowing up the solo dancers, pulling them back into the undertow, appearing to devour them.

Further details are best not revealed here, as Skin is likely to tour round Australia next year. Though it exposed us to the experience of human trafficking in ways some might find confronting, the audience debriefed in a safe space before returning to the “real world.”


Phare Circus

Phare Circus.

The exuberant and gravity-defying antics of Cambodia’s Phare Circus, presented in the Festival’s pop-up Ukiyo Tent, provided a welcome counterpoint to Skin’s provocations.

Drawn from graduates of Cambodia’s Phare Ponleu Selpak Circus School, the company are among the first generation of circus performers to emerge following the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and the near-total extermination of the country’s artists. Phare is a success story, with a permanent home in Seam Reap and road companies touring internationally.

This tight, conceptually integrated, spare production featured eight performers, two musicians, and a visual artist who created three works on canvas while surrounded by a riot of rhythm and movement.

The performance is heavy on human pyramids, tumbling, and death-defying balancing acts held together by a percussive musical score, playful interaction with the audience, and clowning. It was a reminder that the trained human body is an amazing machine, capable of communicating across cultures by the simple act of moving.


As If To Nothing

As If To Nothing.

Similarly dynamic was City Contemporary Dance Company’s As If To Nothing, by choreographer Sang Jijia. Searching for the right phrase to describe this production – because what’s art without a label? – we settled on “neo-Modernist”.

It still isn’t right, but it conveys something of the moral seriousness and skill of this contemporary dance masterpiece, which banished superficial cleverness and self-reference to the rubbish bin. A large, white fabric cube in which a cross-section of interior white wall and a corner window were wheeled around from position to position, provided the only set design.

The company of a dozen dancers were relentlessly energetic and precise. Rarely has visual projection, which hogs the eye in live performance, been used so well. In part it was because the images repeated the dancers’ movements, working as visual amplification but always returning us to the true locus of attention – the bodies of the men and women wrapping and warping around the space.

The floor was a smooth white, and the actors wore socks. This choreography was a glissando, and the control required for a high-energy show was considerable.
Yet, as with Softmachine Rianto, bravura display was not the point. Instead, in true Modernist spirit, what came across is a sincere exploration of emotional depth: attraction, relation, sex, anxiety, need, the madness that lurks beneath the surface of everyday life. The show had the courage to end on a downbeat note, confirming the integrity of vision that ran throughout.


Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night.

Twelfth Night by the Theatre Company Mumbai, in the loosest but truest of Shakespearean adaptations, was an anarchic ride into inter-cultural mayhem. We saw it at a schools’ matinee, and the match between the Bollywood energy of the cast and the expressive bent of the audience (to be polite) was perfect.

In a blend of Hindi and English – there are subtitles but one barely needs to glance at them – the show rollicked through the classic oh-my-God-I-thought-you-were-a-bloke-yet-I-found-myself-strangely-attracted-to-you-anyway fable using a mixture of slapstick, song and dance, infectious audience interaction and lots and lots of colour.

Most of Twelfth Night’s plot was paraphrased, transposed, or satirised by actors who stayed on stage throughout, sitting at the back and regularly erupting like a rowdy family. Each one has unique skills: this one a dancer, that one a singer, that one a comedian. Yet all of them were all of these things too, which made the production even better.

The show had its moments of calm and emotional stillness, and they were beautifully effective. The last song of “eternal spiritual search” was one example, which off-set the high-fives energy to communicate the deep humanity of Shakespeare’s original.


Vertigo 20


Vertigo 20.

Vertigo 20 by Vertigo Dance Company is described in its program blurb as a “weav[ing] together [of] twenty years of Vertigo Dance Company’s creations”, which under-states the brilliance of a piece that not so much defied expectations as inhabited a liminal zone permanently outside them. This is only partly a metaphor.

A company of 11 dancers moved in a low-walled grey-shadowed rectangular space with ledges jutting out at waist and shoulder height. The choreography had the assured precision of a dream whose meaning lies just beyond conscious grasp. Patterns constantly asserted themselves yet, just as they appeared to solidify, transformed into other patterns. A group of men became, suddenly, a group of women (how?) A group became a pair; a pair became a line; a line became a cluster.

The basis of the work was the fractal, and the dance overall was a sort of human Mandelbrot set, waves of movements cresting and transforming in the blink of an eye into other movements. There were no beginnings or ends, just a single stream of physical adjustment – falling, leaping, swaying – in sequences that were an uncategorisable blend of the mechanical and the organic.

This show was definitely not a “best of” from past works. This was Noa Wertheim and her dancers actively engaging the act of memory. The piece had the cognitive immediacy of a firing synapse. At the end, we wanted to see it all over again.


The festival sported a wide variety of satellite activities. Anchoring them was the Good Fortune Market, a groovy mini-precinct created on the banks of the River Torrens. On offer were everything from the hipster fusion sounds of Hong Kong band SIU2 and the retro-psychedelic funk of the Cambodian Space Project, to Japanese okonomiyaki (pan fried batter and cabbage), possibly the world’s most comforting comfort food.

As the OzAsia Festival enters its second decade, both the Asian region and Australia’s relationship with it have changed. No longer can the festival be seen by anyone as a showcase for ethnic exotica and performance heritage.

In creativity, accessibility, skill and daring, the productions on offer embodied an energy and imagination comparable to, and at times exceeding, anything prestigious European-focused international festivals might present. This is to be welcomed. Far from losing itself in a sea of globalised mediocrity, the best of live performance from Asia retains an indefeasible identity while responding to cultural influences from all over the world.

This review was co-written by:
Julian Meyrick
[Professor of Creative Arts, Flinders University] and
William Peterson
[Senior Lecturer in Drama, Flinders University]

It’s Time To Make A Move

Chunky Move are a company that have and continue to be at the forefront of Australian dance, often blurring the lines between technology and the physical form, they have deservingly won a place in the heart of many. Now its ninth year, their groundbreaking initiative Next Move, see’s the company commission the work of emerging and independent dance makers, something that is now more crucial than ever. As part of this year line up is Mermermer, a performance that has come from two of Melbourne’s most talented creators, Nicola Gunn who most recently  was responsible for Ghetto Blaster and Jo Lloyd who last presented Confusion For Three at Arts House. It’s a bold pairing, the two possessing a unique style that is each their own, and should make for an amazing performance. Jo Lloyd spoke with TAGG ahead of the upcoming season

What was the genesis for creating the work?

Over the past three years Nicola Gunn and I have engaged with each others works, and one duration piece we made for Melbourne Now (2014) opened up a practice which engaged my movement with Nicola’s words. This triggered us to develop this intersection of languages further, and Mermermer became the continuation of this preoccupation of ours. We also shared an interest in extinction and the premise of entertaining each other.

Visually, what can we expect from the work?

Saturation and landscape have been strong considerations for this work. As well as utilising the physical and verbal languages to stimulate the imagination and shift perceptions, we have worked with concepts of representation and the connotations the supporting elements conjure up.

What has come out of the collaboration between yourself and Nicola?

We have been conscious of engaging in the strengths of our individual practices, so we can augment what we each know how to do. We are more interested in finding modes of performance that are unfamiliar and engage with a liveness in performance.

What has been some of the more unexpected elements of the work?

Ideas and concepts that came up early in the process persisted and came back frequently enough that we became convinced those early ideas were actually the guts of the work. Yet the distractions along the way were a reminder that the process is the piece.

Do you identify with any current trends in dance performance, and do you sit with in or outside of such things?

Dance and the body engaging with a broad range of performance contexts has had a surge recently (movement in galleries, dance in theatre performances and site specific works) which could be referred to as a performance trend. I don’t consciously try to have a perspective on performance trends whilst I’m engaging in a creative process, my focus is perhaps more about consciously working in relation to my own performance trends.

What does being included in Next Move, offer up, being an independent performer?

The rare opportunity Chunky Move offers with Next Move is immersive, the artist is able to engage with the staff throughout the process and create the work in the venue where it will be presented. I have had to remind myself that the support is available, because as an independent artist you are used to taking on many roles, but with this commission, there are experts in their field ready to do the work we often take on ourselves.

For more info or to book your tickets to Next Move, which opens on Friday the 9th of September click here.

Cut The Sky

Cut The Sky by Marrugeku, is easily definable as being crafted to the highest standard, in terms of production, visual imagery and choreography, these elements are almost beyond fault. However, it takes more than this triptych to create a truly memorable experience for the audience. With so many companies and individuals in recent times having turned to climatic disasters as concept for the creation of new create work, the subject matter is in desperate need of a company or individual to come along and approach with an entirely novel viewpoint. Otherwise the subject will continually fail in engaging with and inciting new conversations with the general public. Despite good intentions, and indeed the vital conversation that is communicated here in Cut The Sky, the thing that most dogged this performance, was an over riding sense of having “seen it all before”.

Cast give impressively, however lacked energy and a came across as a little tired resulting in a sense of disconnection, or disinterest that for an audience member is hard to shake. Transitions between individual solos and group choreography were at best jarring, and a greater sense of fluidity should be a constant thought when developing a performance as cross-disciplinary as Cut They Sky.

Not even the inclusion of two of Nick Caves most iconic songs, were able to insight anything deeper than a superficial hook, somehow Cut The Sky also missed an opportunity to provide an emotional connection through the inclusion of such popular iconography, something of which has been employed to great success by many others, a shame as Cut The Sky is a beautifully surrealist vision of a dystopian future, that however bleak as a reality, is one audiences are inherently drawn toward.

The projections that feature throughout this performance are to a degree, successful in painting a foretelling picture, helped by the underpinning music, though at times, some of the images- whole towns destroyed by natural disaster, are so re-cognisable as not being Australian, that it breaks from a visual rhythm, and detracts from the message as a whole.

Many of the production elements could also have been tightened, better use of North Melbourne Meat Market’s impressive size a simple remedy that could of given greater depth of vision, instead with the performance compacted into the furthest corner, the whole experience was a little cramped, and with so much visual noise, it was impossible to take in each element together as a whole. Closing scenes are undeniably impressive, when the sky is literally cut open, and the lithe choreography finds a physical crescendo; closing scenes delivered while water pours down and over each of the performers an image that remains post performance.

Blood on the Dance Floor

Presented by lbijerri Theatre Company, Blood on the Dance Floor is a carefully crafted and well-wrought performance, brutally honest, it drives home a message surrounding the realities faced by those living on the margins of society, and those facing the challenge of living with HIV. For this alone, Blood on the Dancefloor should be praised, it’s a delicately balanced, highly autobiographical all times courageous, solo performer Jacob Boehme.

The performance begins from the moment audience enter the theatre, with Boehme, dressed in a silk kimono ushering people to their seats, the audience interaction here is perfect, it allows, from the outset, a sense of intimacy and comfort to be fostered, which is central to this works success. The dialogue in the opening scene is punchy, full of high camp melodrama, and a beautiful juxtaposition from which the following scenes unfold, centralized on the deaths left in wake of the HIV epidemic in Australia in the 1980’s and 90’s, going someway in giving greater clarity and depth. Its material that we have all been in contact with in some way, but here it is to an extent re-invented.

Aside from this material, connection to place, rejection and ancestry are also woven into this rich and sweeping narrative, reaching an emotional crescendo that is deeply effecting. Blood on the Dance Floor’s is made all the more compelling by the truth that lies behind the story, the connection between narrative and performer is illustrated and made all the more impressive by the direction given by Isaac Drandic. The choreography by Mariaa Randall is suitably emotive, however given Boehme’s impressive background in dance, more time for these segments should have been granted.

The production values are slick, with the use of projections again featuring in this performance, though a beautiful element, their necessity could be questioned, are such elements needed here? Or is this performance already owning of enough merit, to allow for such elements to be stripped back? Blood on the Dance Floor has an important message to communicate, and perhaps the use of such device ultimately detracts from the work as a whole. Music and sound design are equally well thought out, ultimately though these elements don’t really help in propelling the work forward, though certainly do not detract from the work as a whole, perhaps integrating more recognisable sounds or music would of provided a greater emotional hook.

The biggest question that remains is how successful Blood On the Dance Floor is in its wanting to generate much needed conversation surrounding HIV and the stigma attached, perhaps if this work was to be taken out of the somewhat elitist realms of theatre, then it would indeed be successful in its mission.

All in all, Blood on the Dance Floor is a performance driving by a powerful narrative, one which delivers a visual feast that is resonate, deeply questioning and an unflinching representation of the state of the here and now. It plays at Arts House until Saturday the 4th of June book your tickets here

L U C I D

The way L U C I D works not only within the realms of dance and choreography but that it outwardly employs methods that would perhaps be more at home in a theatrical production, all time drawing on “the digital era” as stimulus, yet somehow managing to re-invent the wheel- is perhaps the key to its success. If contemporary dance does choose to continue to embrace and harness the potentials of modern technology to further progress the form, then let L U C I D be the very definition of how to do this right,

It explores some pretty complex subject matter, the way in which humans interact and counteract with each other is central to the narrative explored by both Stephen Phillips and Lauren Langlois who give their all to this challenging performance. Both surrender to this all together surreal and imposed world created by choreographer and director Anouk van Dijk. It is a rich and sumptuous visual affair full of metaphor and recognisable iconography that together creates something other worldly, dense and at times frightening, such is the truth behind this portrayal.

L U C I D intelligently works with technology in a way that forces a sense of duality on our focus as an audience the resulting effect could, in the best possible way be described as testing. At one moment, focus is directed towards the performers, then only a split second later, it shifts to be fixed upon one of several screens that become activated throughout the performance. The lighting and tech here are an intelligent force that in no way compete for attention instead offering the most fluid accompaniment to the work as a whole.

The set is impressive, a simple white circle marks the boundaries of the performance space, with a pivoting screen offering a central continuum for the performance, with the use of LED lighting offering the greatest and most versatile outcome for what this creative vision demands, in a word, the production values in L U C I D are flawless. The various cameras that are used to capture and reflect the performance in turn offer greater depth of field, duality, and multiple points of perspective.

The choreography here is everything one would expect from Chunky Move and a work of such high calibre, it pushes passed the imposed limitations of the human body to deliver a clear focus on the nuances and subtleties of the human physique.  it could perhaps be argued that this work is in direct response to Complexity Of Belonging- a performance that to a degree explored similar concepts, narrative and through line, however L U C I D has, in stripping away so many of the theatrical bells and whistles, and having reduced the cast to only two performers, delivered a work that is further thought through and stronger as a whole.

L U C I D is a must see, it solidifies the reputation that this company has built for presenting work that is on the precipice of dance and theatre as it moves boldly into the future. It would provide a perfect entry point to those not so well versed in the form, whilst offering just enough to satisfy even the most discerning dance go-er. It is playing at Chunky Move’s studio down at South Bank until June 12th you can book your tickets here

Desert Body Creep

Desert Body Creep performed by Angela Goh is brilliant, no two ways about it, it’s the kind of performance that makes you want to go back and revisit a second or even third time, imaginative, quirky and down right bizarre it is everything and more. Opening with a scene underpinned by the music of Willow Smith, it’s decidedly gen y, youthful and full of vigour.

It works intelligently with various forms and device, vocals, sound and lighting to name but a few. The resulting effect makes you want to get inside the mind of this brilliant young performer, unpacking her thoughts as you go along your way and that’s the joy, trying to pin point exactly what is the genesis behind the work. Desert Body Creep is measured, composed and full of decidedly attractive sense of self assurance.

It’s humorous and wild yet somehow restrained, a difficult balance to strike when creating performance work. Here presents not so much as a clear narrative, but just enough to envisage your own story line. As your imagination runs wild through through a world which borders on the realm of comedic horror, a beautiful young girl is swallowed whole by a giant worm in the desert, only to emerge a naked heroin, taking the remains of this creature and vacuum packing its soul into oblivion.

It seems to fly in the face of so many trends currently witnessed in contemporary dance here in Melbourne, by employing them to a degree, then only to turn sharply away, just at the precise moment you think you know what’s going on. The choreography here is in an intellectual sense somewhat impressive, though if anything it is more anti-choreography, focused on moving about the space and interacting with the various devices at play.

Desert Body Creep Is great introduction to the form, this is a performance that offers an “in” for audiences that may not have connected or found resonance with contemporary dance. Perhaps art does not always need to push an agenda, and indeed if any question posed in Desert Body Creep, should surface it would surround how valuable dance, as a form can be, when wanting to entertain or offer an elusive moment of pause, from the pressures of our menial existences.

Next Wave festival exists precisely to offer not only the opportunity for emerging artists to develop and present new work, but also the chance for audiences to be introduced to the next crop of fresh young talent we have as a society, collectively help produce. Desert Body Creep, is a clear and fine example of their work at play, not so much as a direct response to the here and now, but something even more special,  do yourself a favour and see this work, it’s playing till Sunday the 23rd of May at Northcote Town Hall, book your tickets here

Camel

Camel continues within the trend of minimalist work so often presented in Melbourne, but here we have performers not even necessarily engaging in the choreographic form, reacting in the first instance to computer generated sounds and technology. It’s a stark work, most often choosing not work with an underpinning score, which is fine, but for audiences, more is needed to effectively create an engaging and thought provoking work.

It starts with the greatest of intentions, in fact opening scenes, bordered on being side split-tingly funny, but unfortunately, the material here wears thin, then only to border on the simply tedious before too long. It seems to be nothing more than a performance that aimed way too high to be squarely positioned in the realms of the obscure for the sake of anything close to resembling a plot, continuity or through line. It threw the most random of objects into the ring and hopped for the best, delving deeper into some pretty un-imaginative and bleak territory. Costuming, or as described in the program notes as being “anti-costumes” here are blue morph suits, unfortunately the resulting effect was as if audiences where watching four Smurfs engaged in some bizarre art-house film you may stumble across late night on SBS…

However, James Andrew provided some much needed relief, proving the antidote to this soupy mess of an ill-thought and poorly devised work, the deathly silence mid performance interrupted by his loud slurping from an empty cup, from this point of introduction he continues in the role of provocateur, almost emanating a sense of boredom.

The first thing here that could be corrected is the run time, clocking in at an hour and fifteen minutes, condensing some of the overly long sequences and drawing on what moments of quality where present- sections of the drum kit, seemingly sliding across the stage away from precisionist Michael McNab- would do wonders for the overall work. Better use or further activation surrounding site, reducing the size of the performance space would perhaps tighten the work visually, or more importantly bring audience and performer closer to each other. What moments of music present, where the perfect accompany- such device would do well being further incorporated into the performance.

Camel is a work in need of further development and time in the studio, perhaps not ready for public presentation, though opportunities or experiences such as those provided by Next Wave Festival are important stepping stones or lessons that should prove invaluable in the development of an artist. It would be interesting to watch future development unfold, and though at present, Camel is perhaps a little confused, a second presentation would be an idea not without merit.

Camel has finished it’s season

Photo credit: Sarah Walker