Wednesday, November 4, 2009

IDENTITY

Tasdance
Theatre Royal
October 30, 2009

In a thrilling double bill, Tasdance served its Hobart audience another chance to dine on the shiningly expressive technical skills of its talented troupe of six dancers. Artistic Director Annie Greig invited renowned Indigenous choreographer Frances Rings and choreographer, dancer and filmmaker Anton to collaborate with these talented dancers and choreograph a suite that sheds light on our day-to-day quest for authenticity.

Feeling as if, at times I live on the brink of my own sanity in a modern world, I personally responded to Anton’s The Blur. One might say that his response to our contemporary plight was a bit too literal. The dancers moved fiercely on either side of large, flexible Perspex slabs (symbolising the myriad technologies ruling our lives), their referred body movement building to the point of sensory overload and exhaustion, then back again. Nevertheless I was entranced (as I can be by any glowing screen) by the choreography — both combative and submissive — and the dancers’ empathetic response to the reality of a globalised lifestyle. The perspex was not suspended independently but always held or bent by one or two dancers to epitomize our situation. Technology connects us, but we are also slaves to it.

Amidst the hypnotic haze there were memorable moments such as a lull in the throbbing soundtrack when you could hear the frenzied sound of the dancers catching their breath—a brutal instant of relief after a prolonged segment of what looked like electrocution. Or Trisha Dunn and Sofie Burgoyne hunkered down, deformed and distorted under their flexi-plastic fields. I particularly loved the Pyramus and Thisbe-esque movement of Floeur Alder and Malcolm McMillan as they yearned to find each other on either side of the translucent screen, never to be united. You could liken this to a game of mobile phone tag, but I’d prefer to err on the side of romanticism in this day and age.

Though the movement, music, lighting and use of plastic was scintillating, the cheap fabric of the costumes in this number did disservice to the dancers. Reminiscent of the terry-toweling jumpsuits we wore in the 80’s the women’s costumes were uncomfortably distracting on their beautiful physiques. Sarah Fiddamen’s lithe limbs, in a brown costume beside her counterparts’ of green, blue and pink, were nearly invisible in the blur. Was that the choreographer’s intention, or the only other colour available?

By the time Remembered of Us began I was emotionally exhausted and rattled by The Blur and its terrible jumpsuits, so I could not settle into Frances Rings more lyrical, expansive and distinctly feminine thematic. I wish I could have seen it first. I suspect, too, that the dancers’ bodies still held the memory of The Blur—how could they not after all that gyrating? But they were all exquisite nonetheless.

The incorporation of the dancers’ narratives at the beginning of the piece was a beautiful inclusion and left me wanting more as its lyrical intertwining of bodies reached a crescendo. The set concept was exquisite in its matriarchal glory, but unresolved as it attempted to convey too many messages. The gorgeous life-sized loom through which dancers wove themselves became a little too literal and superfluous while acting as projection screen bearing images of double helixes. The large crocheted net of red satin cord was once again a beautiful idea, but would have been more effective were it carried through in its unravelling and interplay with the dancers.

If you weren’t there, I am tempted to refer you to watch SBS’s latest series of Who Do You Think You Are? to get the gravity of what Rings wanted us to grapple with. What are the building blocks of your individuality? But sitting at home in front of your glowing screen is a far inferior experience to making your way into our quaint Hobart CBD to see contemporary dance at this level. I can’t wait for our next opportunity. They are too few and far between!

Sara Wright

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