passing strange

keith gallasch: jo lloyd's melbourne spawned a monster

BEFORE A NIGHT-TIME CITYSCAPE, A LONE MAN GESTICULATES ODDLY, POSSIBLY FROM A LEDGE HIGH ABOVE THE STREETS, MOMENTARILY PEERING DOWN AT US FROM THE VERY FRONT OF THE STAGE, AS IF DIMLY REGISTERING WITNESSES TO HIS OBSESSIVE DANCE. HE IS A MAN PROFOUNDLY POSSESSED, MAKING NEAT AND LATER TORTUOUS GEOMETRIES FROM HIS BODY BEFORE HE ABJECTLY AND CONVULSIVELY COLLAPSES, ONLY TO REVIVE AND RE-FORM THEN SINK ONCE AGAIN, AS THE CITY LIGHTS FADE.

The non-literal arc of this decidedly strange passing is preceded by the sound of tennis balls bouncing off the wall in the dark followed by a brief glimpse of the man at play. In the dark, and against a mini rendering of a skyline, he suggests a hometown King Kong bouncing balls off buildings. But then, it's as if he's stopped, turned around and seen the city, been taken with it (or some other compulsion) and now measures himself against it. Facing us straight on, feet placed well apart, a knee bent, a hand at hip, he sways, calmly, contentedly in synch with the tolling bell, fast click and increasingly ominous thump of the sound score. He raises an arm over his head, the sway turns to swing. Thin strands of coloured lights glow or, alternatively, dim as he passes. Perhaps he believes this magic is his. Sustaining his strange composure and the gait that edges him back and forth across the front of the stage, but now gazing up, he raises his arms grandly as if to embrace or emulate the height of a skyscraper or the vastness of the sky.

Soon, other emotions flicker as arms briefly scissor across an expressionless face, as legs kick out with involuntary force, as the strange swaying strut accelerates upstage, as hands clutch from front and back beneath the crotch, and an angry, frustrated body decends to the floor, lurching with the last of its life force. Collapse is followed by gradual revival and recovery of the monster's odd, stiff dance, if lacking its initial energy. Some kind of psychological implosion appears to have done its physical damage and the creature winds down, a bright light elegaically playing across the declining body like a lighthouse beam or indifferent car headlights pulsing through the city.

Melbourne Spawned a Monster is a decidedly strange if not althogether satisfactory work, with the kind of vaguely suggestive narrative you have when you're not getting the one the title promises. Does Melbourne, “epicentre of Australian dance” (as proclaimed during Dance Massive), in fact spawn monsters of impossible ambition and inevitable defeat? Originally performed by the choreographer, Jo Lloyd, here the work is effectively realised by Luke George, his downstage, mechanical two-dimensional cut-out becoming an upstage three dimensional image of anguished malfunction.

10 March 2009
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