Friday, March 18, 2011

The Revery Alone

Billy Cowie
Dance Massive

Perhaps the clue is in the misspelled title of this melodic work.

‘The Revery Alone’ is one of three 3D installations from Stereoscopic Director/choreographer/composer Billy Cowie in the Dance on Film program at Arts House, and it is fascinating in both its abstraction and illusion.

From the comfort of strategically placed mats around a darkened room, we watch as a naked dancer appears to hang from the ceiling above, her hands and feet gripping handles as if she is fighting the gravitational pull to fall. Performer Eleonore Ansari mesmerises with her slow, controlled movements and feline postures. The screen is her stage, confining her range of movement in both breadth and depth, almost claustrophobically, as hands and feet pass from hold to hold, and her body sways and stretches to its absolute muscular limit.

The background score is soothing, repetitive, mellifluous, and it lulls like a cradlesong. This is not music from this time or this place; perhaps it is something played in deep space and the dancer is truly moving through another dimension or gravity. Maybe it is a chimera, after all, and the music is something only dreamed.

‘The Revery Alone’ is a study in movement, in grace, in the corporeality of dance on film. But the question remains…is the dancer really hanging there or is this a trick of the camera? She bends backwards, her face upside down, her eyes looking directly into mine and there is a slow understanding that passes between us: the only important thing is, the body must move.

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.


Helen Herbertson/Ben Cobham
Dance Massive

You’re ushered carefully into a very dark space. You are offered sake (or tea, the choice is yours) in a small white cup. You are led to a seat in the circle of chairs in the centre of the dark space (or, if you are unlucky/lucky?, further away, in a line along the raised stage). You are seated. You are a part of a boundary, a threshold, a mark against the space. You are part of what might occur.

Dance on Film

Various artists
Dance Massive

Upstairs at Arthouse, above the Sunstruck watchers, dancers on film loop over and over, not caring whether an audience is there. Are they different to ‘live’ dancers, or do audiences just want to believe that dancers mind whether we are there? We want the work to be about us, about communication with us, about connection, but what if it isn’t? What if it is only for the performers? And would we know/feel the difference anyway?

Some of these niggling questions are alleviated when we watch dance on film. We’re not confronted with breathing bodies, so it is perhaps easier to detach and to simply watch the work before us, and not to get caught up in the pseudophilosophical concerns about relationships between the performing bodies and watching bodies.

Other than this, what is the defining difference between dance on film and dance on a stage?

Music for Imagined Dances

Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey
Dance Massive

I love the idea behind this work. I love it so much I can barely express it. I’m obsessed with its poetry and its possibility.

There’s nothing cryptic about the title: Flynn and Humphrey fill an empty room with soundscape and lights, and invite you to people it with your own imagined dancers. This invitation is, for me, so overflowing with potential that I almost couldn’t breathe when I first sat down on the long, low, white bench in the white room.

But the execution of this idea is so poor that I left the experience feeling furious with disappointment.


Helen Herbertson and Ben Cobham
Dance Massive

The ephemeral can leave a lasting resonance. So it is with Sunstruck, a dance performance full of fleeting moments of exquisite beauty and infinite feeling.

This is dance stripped back to the moment, conjured from seemingly nothing: an empty stage; one light; two dancers; no costumes or props; a violin and cello for the score. The audience is seated in the round, containing the performance, holding it, strange silhouettes that perimeter the landscape and bound the empty space that both defines and restrains the performance.

The staging is deceptively empty, but it is the emptiness that first draws us in; the nothingness is alive with possibility.