Earl Arts Centre
Ten Days on the Island
By Wendy Newton
There aren’t enough words to describe Trisha Dunn’s choreography and performance in Finding Centre. We need a new vocabulary, something that hasn’t been invented yet, to translate. Exceptional. Inimitable. Exquisite. Superlatives fall short, but they are all I have to describe this creationism event that is a flawless fifty minutes of contemporary dance.
No-one dances like Trisha Dunn.
The performance begins in a blackened room. Soft lighting silhouettes Dunn as she appears to be floating, horizontally like a magician’s assistant, ten feet or so from the ground. One leg slowly lifts to the thrum of ambient music, muscles in slow motion, cat-like and controlled as her body turns, stretches, runs in place. It is a triumph of control, of physical strength and the illusion of weightlessness: she is suspended by the force of her own momentum across two video screens that come to life as paper flies across their monochromatic landscape.
It is breathtaking and it is only a few minutes into the performance.
The video screens are used to layer images of Dunn as she performs, first in synch with herself, then in discord, multiple selves that dance with and against. She moves behind the screens and they project her shadow, a giant self that investigates her frenetic twin dancing on the beach in a time-lapse video. Simultaneous filmed interviews play behind her as she dances in front. Videos of her dancing flicker and disjoint as techno music drives the sound of automation, a machine clogging and breaking down; the physical Dunn continues dancing, uninterrupted. In a near-silent moment, she carries an illuminated fish bowl across the stage, her face immersed in water, blowing bubbles that dance with her breath.
There is so much going on in Finding Centre, but every element is a glorious piece of the whole. I could write about the minimal use of lighting to create mood, the lo-fi ambient score, or the clever use of technology, but without any of this, with only the sublime moves of Trisha Dunn, the intention would still be transcendently clear: it is a performance on distraction, on questioning where reality lies, on finding our own truth and peace within ambition, expectation and chaos.
But it is more than that.
Dunn’s creative brilliance is in the way she connects with the audience through performance. She is so immersed in the dance, so present in the moment, so exposed, vulnerable, real, that you’re left with no doubt about what the creative intention is: and it’s to move you to experience it with her. She is the event horizon that draws you in: the lights come on and you’re lulled into a sing-along; she holds her breath and you hold yours; she ponders if she’s done enough in the end, if the performance needs to be started over, and we laugh, but it’s at ourselves and our own self-doubt. The line between performer and audience, self and others, dissolves in the sublime moment we find ourselves in: it’s uniquely human, universally spiritual. Her performance unfolds like a lotus flower; it is an awakened meditation in dance and we are moved from the personal to the transpersonal.
“Things move in circles,” Dunn says in her video interview. ‘What do you think the performance is about?”
Finding Centre: it’s a place at the heart of Trisha Dunn’s work. If we are lucky enough to witness it, we find it fluttering like fallen words into the heart of us, where words no longer matter.