as dreamt by a dancer

jana perkovic: sandra parker, out of light

 Mia Hollingworth, Carlee Mellow, Clair Peters, Out of Light

Mia Hollingworth, Carlee Mellow, Clair Peters, Out of Light

OUT OF LIGHT IS A DREAM OF A PERFORMANCE AS DREAMT BY THE DANCER. NOT A DANCE TO SHOCK OR AMUSE, INSTEAD IT’S AN ELUSIVE ONE THAT PLAYS WITH PERCEPTION, ONE THAT LOOKS AND FEELS LIKE A TANTALISINGLY DISTANT MEMORY OF ITSELF: CONFUSED SERIAL ORDERING, BLEEDING SOUND AND IMAGE, VIEWING ANGLES ASKEW.

The bodies, sounds, light subtly but consistently disperse out of sync, swarm in and out of coherence. Carlee Mellow, Clair Peters and Mia Hollingworth fall out of rhythm and rejoin the movement arc. Cascading figments of feminine choreography are performed with clarity and focus, but then collapse into stretching exercises, long breaks in the wings, memory gaps. Mellow will dance in unison with her own shadow on the screen, dark, gigantic and precise, yet the two keep falling out of sync. A screen separates the dancers from the audience, creating horror-like, sublime remoteness. The imaginary surroundings rotate frivolously from a catalogue of 19th-century painted sets into a thick rain of falling roses; yet all, even the smoke effects, reveal themselves as mere projections.

Parker’s dance waxes lyrical on performers’ mysterious ability to reproduce complex sequences of information. ‘Body memory’ is a misguided term, for all archival memory is reliant upon the body. Our speech-privileging culture forgets that mnemocultures like the Sanskrit textual tradition or Aboriginal songlines rely primarily on the mnemonic potential of gesture and music to preserve knowledge. Every performance of such a mnemotext is a singular recreation ex novo, making mnemocultures perhaps more at ease with the fleeting, unstable nature of dance, the most ephemeral of arts. Taking it one step further, Parker explores the retrieval errors that occur as memories fade or morph, and residual marks, traces of the unavailable past come alive. Loose threads of possible narratives appear as the dancers perform a balletic pas de trois: Hollingworth and Peters with ornamented grace, Mellow with an almost masculine, heavy, streamlined simplicity. How have their paths diverged? Has one body unlearned its clichés?

Out of Light, kept together by a strong backbone of clarity and precision, never dissolves into impressionist muck. Amidst the conflicting lights, changing angles, confounding music cues, the three dancers pick up their moves with absolute intent. Tiredness creeps in, yet the body endures, the rhythm is preserved, the woman behind the choreography stands tall and victorious. Memory and desire are inseparable: the drive to preserve the past in the future, salvage creation from extinction, is an act of pure will. Parker sings praise to the strength that emerges within the freedom of unstructured memory.

Building up the precision of learned movement, never succumbing to approaching fatigue, bodies tortured ever closer into structured, perfected violence, the piece is suddenly dramaturgically transformed by the unexpected addition of fairy costumes, classical movement and an entire baroque proscenium arch. The playfulness is gone, and what remains is children’s ballet, infused with gentle mutual correction, elbows raised, arms outstretched, until the three infantilised girl-princesses manage to correct and straighten each other into stern, stoic Victorian dolls, unable to do anything more than stare—finite, immobile and proper—into the audience, while the warm light gently dims.

Out of Light, direction, choreography Sandra Parker, dancers Mia Hollingworth, Carlee Mellow, Clair Peters, lighting design Jenny Hector, projection design Rhian Hinkley, composer Steven Heather; Gasworks Arts Park, Melbourne, Feb 26-Mar 7

RealTime issue #90 April-May 2009 pg. 38

© Jana Perkovic; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2009
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