Saturday, October 31, 2009


Theatre Royal
October 30, 2009
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg

Tasdance’s latest offering, Identity, pairs works by two choreographers exploring what makes us who we are. Anton’s ‘The Blur’ is a slightly edgy, abstract work playing with the disconnections and distractions of contemporary urban life, and ‘Remembered of us’ by Frances Rings is a gentle, lyrical work with a strong narrative thread about ancestry. Both are evocative and delivered with strength and commitment by four veteran and two new Tasdance performers.

In ‘The Blur’, sheets of slightly frosted Perspex create a sense of separation between dancers, and between dancers and audience. When working with the sheets, the dancers test the texture, the resistance, and the possibilities of the material, just as they push these relationships with space, with gravity, and with each other. In their movement they find breaking points, barriers, and sometimes support and protection. With ‘The Blur’ Anton challenges us, with a determined intensity, to question our own relationship with the modern world.

‘Remembered of us’, developed around the stories and histories of the dancers, asks fewer questions than ‘The Blur’ and instead offers melodic and comforting patterns of movement. The opening voice-over, about family resemblance and heritage, is both welcome and restrictive. It provides an accessible narrative context for the rest of the performance, but also dictates interpretation. The work is enriched by Odette Arietta-Shadbolt’s beautiful set (a series of woven, knitted, and wrapped wooden frames) but suffers under the weight of its slightly intrusive and self-conscious soundtrack, which occasionally suffocates the careful, symbolic, filmic phrases.

It’s not always easy (or important) to find and follow the narratives of contemporary dance, but in Identity I felt very drawn to the journey the dancers were making, as they traversed points of convergence and divergence. A highlight was Trisha Dunn’s solo in ‘Remembered of us’, as the other dancers caressed and lifted her limbs through a screen of the threads on one of the wooden frames. As she stepped away from the frame into a solo proper, the echoes of the other dancers’ hands and their impact on her movement were very vivid; a poetic metaphor for the way our history and ancestry can shape us even when it is not physically present.

The contrast between choreographic styles of the two works (with Rings’ more traditional) echoes the different understandings of ‘identity’ that each of us holds. Yet the two works also share a certain energy and intensity, reminding us that there is always some common cultural ‘identity’ underpinning our individual experience.