Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Luminous Flux

Earl Arts Centre
Ten Days on the Island

 By Wendy Newton


It's not a very lyrical word and it certainly doesn't testify to any level of sophistication in reviewing dance, but I couldn't stop saying it after watching Tasdance's performance of Luminous Flux as part of Ten Days on the Island. 


Luminous Flux is a diptych in contemporary dance with two exceptional works by choreographers Tanja Liedtke and Byron Perry that play with the abstract and physical territory of light.  Both show what can be done with a small black stage, some basic lighting and minimal costuming when the artistic and choreographic vision is strong and the dance talent extreme. 

Enter Twilight by Tanja Liedtke might be a remount from Tasdance's 2004 season Light and Shade, but the performance by Sarah Fiddaman, Brianna Kell, Jenni Large and Timothy Walsh is fresh and as brilliant as the lights they perform with.  In a world that is so often 'black and white', Liedtke's work explores the ambiguity and tension between the opposites: of light and dark, of good and evil.  Is the dark an absence of light, or a creature all of its own making?

There's something otherworldly about this work.  Three female dancers dressed in primly-collared and homogenously styled dresses of aqua, purple and red take turns in teasing and coercing a male dancer into a mysterious alliance.  Controlled doll-like movements manage to be jerky yet beautifully languid, as bodies use each other for momentum and energy. It's a shock-wave of touch and tangled connection as couples impact and move with and against each other; first liquid and slow as if underwater, and then tumbling in a kaleidoscope of dance.  But there's tension in the flirtatious symmetry and nuanced interactions.  Are they part of the spectrum of light or a force for the dark?

The lo-fi electronic musical score by DJ Trip offers an ambient rhythmic pulse to underscore the mood.  It is as soothing and repetitive as a heartbeat; static scratches like old vinyls on a turntable, a piano chimes like a clock, and it feels unearthly yet remembered.  Spotlights are used to create light paving, shadows on the dancers, shapes on benches. The benches become props for some of the most startling work, as the seated dancers glide along them like automaton cogs in a predestined assembly-line.  It is an intimate world bounded by the juxtaposition of what is seen and what is not seen, through the luminosity of white light bordering a stylistic performance that blurs the lines between purity and vice, and the clichés we assume of them.

The second work is not light entertainment, despite the name.  Light Entertainment is a highly original and sophisticated abstract work by choreographer Byron Perry that demands engagement - whether you're prepared for it or not.

With an improvised first half and highly structured second half, Light Entertainment goes from one end of the spectrum to the other.  The first half is playful, humorous and blatantly repetitive, as the performers, including the addition of Dean Cross, engage in an organic emergence into the physical territory of light.  Set against an eclectic musical score that runs from the opening 1970s pop 'commercial', to classical and country, performers take their cue from each other as children might: there's laughter, crying, orgasmic sighing, and it draws in the audience with the simplicity that's performed within the glare of harsh fluorescent light.

It's in the immersive second half that this work really shines.  Performers manipulate the light, the set, each other, us, with fluorescent lights and hand-held torches that leave us alternatively in the light, in the dark.  Body parts are highlighted and hidden, dancers become a tool, a ploy, a stage, to explore the science of light.  Light is white no more; spectral colours sweep the room like dancers as our eyes try to adjust to the blink of light.  The dancers are playing with us as much as playing with the light; our eyes can't help but participate in the creative deception.  A thumping techno-tribal beat draws us, willing or not, into a near-mystical hypnosis of dance that literally gave me chills up my spine. 

Luminous Flux is as incandescent as its title and confirms there's much more to Tasdance than could ever meet the eye. 

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