Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Drift

Photo by Byron Perry


Choreographed by Antony Hamilton
Performed outdoors, in Melbourne
March 2011, as part of Dance Massive

Approaching the site, it’s dark. Scratchy, alien noises are emanating from the car stereo. Under a soaring concrete overpass, we stop, huddled in our vehicle.

Dust-coloured creatures are visible, holding on to each other as if to avoid being separated in a storm. They are dressed for the elements, wearing boots, craftily aged jackets and pants, outfits reminiscent of a previous decade, possibly borrowed from the set of Star Wars. Occasionally lights flash, briefly illuminating the bridge above. We have been transported to another world, or at least another age.

Gradually the shuffling of the three hooded beings develops into idiosyncratic movement. Isolated, insular, the sense of otherness is heightened by these unfamiliar manoeuvres. Standing closely together, their appearance and actions have a tribal likeness.

It’s a technique choreographer Antony Hamilton has employed before, though this spears to be a more sophisticated stage in the evolution of his style. Small movements, inspired by hip hop but with a focus on spatial and rhythmic invention, popping through the torso and arms of a group of closely placed dancers.

After several minutes, something changes… they leave. Enter a woman, bare breasted, dragging a long, smooth tree branch. She begins a sequence of spinning, gathering momentum until the wooden limb is airborne. The contrast of her soft flesh against the unbending timber is painfully marked, the weight of it pressing against her body as she swings it. There is something ritualistic, pagan, ancient but also na├»ve in the scene. Like a child in the wilderness, or a priestess enacting a sacred dance, it’s primal, simple, unaffected.

The dust creatures return, surrounding the newcomer. The sense of tribalism and ritual is heightened when they begin a unified sequence of rhythmic stamping and hand movements. There’s a sense of danger, desperation and exhaustion. Is she being converted, captured, or saved?

Intermittent grids of light flash and move across the roof of this post-industrial space, which could just as easily be a scorched planet in another galaxy as a post-apocalyptic earth. Viewing it through the prism of a car windscreen adds to the sense of unreality. We could be at the drive in, watching a sci-fi movie, or in our own personal space-pod, observing alien life forms. It’s a pleasant change to the ubiquitous black box theatre experience, and Hamilton’s ambitious scenario easily justifies the outdoor setting.

The four dancers are totally committed, the sound broadcast to our car stereo by Robin Fox is out of this world, Paula Levis’s costumes are worthy of a film-set and the site specific projections by Kit Webster are sparse enough to be a constant surprise, subtle enough not to intrude and so well focussed as to appear native to the space.

It begs the question, why don’t we have more site specific dance in Melbourne? Maybe this production will spark a new wave of thoughtfullly devised ventures outside the theatre.

Performed by Alisdair Macindoe, Jess Wong, Melanie Lane, and Lily Paskas as the intruder.

2 comments:

  1. This sounds astounding, and I wish I'd seen it. Thank you for the vivid review.

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  2. Thanks Catherine! It was definitely worth a look, but with such a limited capacity and short season, like much of Dance Massive, it sold out quite quickly, so you're certainly not the only one who missed out.
    I think it's going to be presented in Sydney later this year, so you might get another chance!

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