simultaneities

virginia baxter: rogue: a volume problem, the counting, puck

Rogue

Rogue

A PARTICULAR PLEASURE ASSOCIATED WITH FESTIVALS IS THAT WORKS ACCUMULATE IN THE MEMORY AND AN INTERNAL DIALOGUE BEGINS. THIS CONVERSATION ALSO TAKES PLACE LITERALLY AS YOU BUMP INTO PEOPLE WHO’VE SEEN THE SAME WORKS ACROSS THE EVENT AND COMPARE RESPONSES. I’M PLEASED TO HAVE BEGUN MY DANCE MASSIVE EXPERIENCE WITH THE 'PURE' FORM OF RUSSELL DUMAS’ HUIT À HUIT. I FOUND MYSELF RETURNING TO IT THROUGHOUT THE FESTIVAL AS WELL AS TO DUMAS’ PROVOCATIONS ABOUT CONTEMPORARY DANCE AND HIS DISOWNING OF THE TERM IN CONNECTION WITH HIS OWN WORK.

Deeper comparisons are forming but, over the past week, I’ve taken in a vibrant display of work from the speculative explorations of Mortal Engine and the extended physicality and filmic structures of Splintergroup’s dance theatre (Roadkill, Lawn) to the expressionist brushstrokes of Melbourne Spawned a Monster, the cross-cultural mash-up of 180 Seconds, the deep meditations of Morphia Series and the playful experiment in dance translation, Untrained. The experience is completed with a glimpse of the up and coming in a night of three short works from Rogue.

Dance Massive and Malthouse have invested in this young company, comprising largely VCA dance graduates, that surfaced at Next Wave 2008. The result is a very creditable showing of three short works in the Tower at Malthouse, the company choosing notable up and comer choreographers for two of the pieces and a collaboration-with-direction from a couple of their own members for the third.

In A Volume Problem, choreographed by Byron Perry, the ubiquitous loudspeaker morphs in a profusion of configurations. Beginning with a tightly spotlit finger dance with small speakers, the seven Rogue dancers dressed in grey move through a set of highly articulated patterns interrupted by blackouts. Only occasionally do they flow in more lithe, organic groupings. Mostly they move with tight efficiency in the small space, their bodies serving with seeming ease the rhythm and shape of Perry’s idiosyncratic choreography and Luke Smiles’ insistent sound score.

Antony Hamilton’s The Counting offers the company more opportunities to display their skills in the mechanics of movement and tight teamwork to a driving sound score. The bodies of these one male and six female dancers appear light, their concentration consuming. Movements fly by, eschewing any memorable expressiveness in favour of drive and discipline and, again, the Rogue dancers deliver.

In the final work, Puck, the dancers collaborate with fellow company members (Derrick Amanatidis and Sara Black) to express what initially suggests a more playful sensibility. Colour is introduced with the suggestion of a fairground setting. The dancers appear to have lightened up, dressed in a variety of matching white costumes that display images of their faces (designer Doyle Barrow). Alas, a metronomic soundtrack sets the pace again.

The dancers move in unison through a set of prescribed movements as one of their number prowls the audience like an ice-cream seller doling out an array of sound-making gadgets—whistles, bells, quacks. At the sound of each, the movement is altered or ceased: one dancer bursts into fake tears, another breaks the pattern of movement. At the sound of the bell they return to square one.

It’s all meant to be fun and the audience accepts the invitation to play along. But equally it might also be read as a sad reflection on the prescriptive life of the dancing body put through its paces by a diabolically demanding audience. The company’s name, Rogue, suggests defiance. Maybe that’s why at the end, I wanted the dancers to break rank, step out of those trained bodies and into their real ones and engineer a devilish advance on their fun-loving audience oppressors or, though it’s a world away, slip magically into a set of those elegantly meditative Dumas duets and forget about us altogether.

14 March 2009
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