Friday, September 18, 2015

SDS1 reviewed by Stephenie Cahalan


Creator and performer: Ahilan Ratnamohan
Presented by Mobile States and Salamanca Arts Centre
at Moonah Arts Centre, September 17-19, 2015 

Watching soccer will never be the same. Until now I have viewed the game as a fast and spontaneous series of reactions to a ball, with opponents to dodge and goals to score.

But after seeing Ahilan Ratnamohan in SDS1, I will always wonder how much is attack and defence, and how much is choreographed play.  

Ratnamohan is a dancer with a background in professional soccer that he has crafted into his dance performance. The 55-minute piece was part-movement, part display of prowess that left the audience agape at the extreme physicality of the performance; showing just how small the gap between sport and dance is.

The exertion, skill and precision required by the player/performer to execute the perfect move, and most of all the stamina, is almost identical. And, done well, both players and performers enjoy the same roar of approval from the crowd.

The SDS1 soundtrack matched the pace and energy of the movement, articulating the mounting heartbeat and Ratnamohan’s gasping breathing which also became part of the soundscape of the piece. ‘Quarter time’, where Ratnamohan sucked back air and water, invited the audience to the sidelines of the game and to the intimate space of the player as he regrouped, taped up pains and strains and swiped away the litres of sweat pouring off his body. It was all there and it was really great insight into the very private physical world of a person who employs their body at an elite level and expects it to perform to the extreme.

A defining part of the success of this show was the engagement of Ratnamohan with the crowd. Unlike so much contemporary dance that is necessarily removed from the audience, bordering on introspection, this player/performer connected with every audience member – at times psyching us out like a challenging opponent, sometimes greeting the crowd like the victorious goal kicker soaking up adulation. 

The new Moonah Arts Centre is a great venue for this kind of performance piece; intimate but generous, with plenty of space for ‘the game’ to play out. The crowd was an assembly of curious adults and young soccer players, all incredibly impressed by the endurance and ball skills Ratnamohan showed off. My son and his mates counted the number of headers and juggles, breathing ‘64’ or ‘58’ in awe each time.

This show is original, utterly engaging and a really neat introduction to contemporary dance for a young audience who might otherwise find it a bit obscure and remote. I hope it comes back to Hobart and the word goes out on every junior soccer mailing list in the state so that  all those players and onlookers could get a look at look at soccer from a different angle.

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