Sunday, March 27, 2011

In Glass

Choreographer Narelle Benjamin
Performers Kristina Chan and Paul White
Dance Massive

The symbolism of the mirror has long been used to explore and represent a variety of implicit themes in the arts: self-reflection; introversion; ego; vanity; illusion; duality; deception. In Glass by Choreographer Narelle Benjamin is a sublimely choreographed and exquisitely danced work that unfortunately suggests far more than it reveals.

The performance begins in the dark, with dancer Paul White searching the stage for Kristina Chan, who appears to be asleep. All he has is a pinpoint torch to light the way and the yearning to discover his slumbering anima. Then begins the dance of fascination with the other, the fascination with the self. The desire to merge, the desire for freedom. The exploration of dream, reality, love, longing, ego, of sensual innocence and erotic craving.

Dancers Chan and White are mesmerising in their relationship to each other and in the fluidity of their movements. At times their individuality merges; you cannot tell which arm is which, where one starts, where the other ends. It is a contortion of symmetry, a symbiotic love affair in movement. It is inordinately skilful and deeply moving. The mellow but targeted lighting emphasises each vein, each muscle; it is beauty intensified, idealised, spotlighted for its own sake. It is chest, forearm, back, we see, obscuring the whole that would shatter the illusion of perfection in the dance of love.

But the psyche has many strata, and the mirrors tell a story, too. Through projections we see altered worlds, ephemeral yet perpetual dances in another reality, layers of consciousness that morph with the physical dancing. The mirrors reflect, deflect, light, obscure, deny, reveal and hide their movement, their expression – from the audience, from each other. Chan and White move in and out of them, physically and reflectively, the mirrors gateways to the inaccessible parts of themselves and their relationship.

At times the lush layering of images in the mirrors is a distraction to the immediacy and sensuality of the physical dancers whose corporeal presence is eclipsed by the too-clever technology. Other times, the images were banal, (Chan reaches up and plucks an apple from a tree in the nether world of the mirror, disappearing into it to run through an Edenic orchard), and disappointed. The magnificence of Chan’s and White’s dancing was enough in its simple physical splendour.

A mirror reflects truth and reveals faults, much like the work that is In Glass. The movement of the dancers is an exquisite interplay of physical skill and poetic expression, at times transcending the bounds of individuality and earthly possibility. It is supremely beautiful. I enjoyed it for its aesthetics and sheer physicality, but I’m not sure that these parts are enough to create a meaningful whole. Like the reflection in one of its mirrors, the beauty of In Glass is insubstantial, a fleeting veneer that leaves no lasting impression beyond the gaze.

Wendy Newton
Attendance at Dance Massive (Melbourne) was made possible through the arts@work Critical Acclaim program. Critical Acclaim is an arts@work (Arts Tasmania) professional development program aimed at increasing the breadth of critical discourse and discussion in both the arts industry and the public arena.

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