Adelaide Festival 2004: Bangarra Dance Theatre, Triple Bill

Helen Omand

The solo work of Mugiyono Kasido in Triple Bill is an exemplar of the mimetic/dance form. Possessing a commanding presence, Kasido’s powerful movements literally hang in space. Draping limbs suspend in silence interjected with bird calls which emanate from the depths of an ever alert body. Kasido wears a simple white t-shirt which is used effectively, signifying a type of magician’s coat or sheath, through which his body transforms between abstract and still life shapes. Martha Graham’s Lamentations comes to mind, but more humorously used, with the stretching of fabric creating images: a bird, a yogi, a shell, the body as a vehicle for rumours. The political and sociological is revealed through the stance of gun-wielding bravado, quickly reversing to the victim’s fearful, cringing. Things are not what they seem. Sculptural order comes from disorder returning to upside down uncertainty, Rodin in stretched cotton. This work exercises the functional body in a constant display of balance and imbalance. The struggle to stay harmonious rests in brief moments of indigenous Indonesian stances reminding us of a mature culture subsisting under duress. The body as battle zone, the seat of self expression as well as the location for harmony.

Francis Rings’ Unaipon is based on the fissures and marriage between science, religion and Indigenous culture as exemplified by the life of David Unaipon, a Ngarrindjeri man of the Warrawaldi clan born in 1972 at Point McLeay Mission in South Australia. His life traversed 2 cultures entering the realms of complexity in his roles as inventor, philosopher, writer and storyteller.

A scrim projected with a cosmography interlayed with the image of the Australian $50 note absorbs the eye. An optical illusion excites our desire to trace a milky, astrological cartography of songlines intermingled with a familiar effigy. These images are not divisive, alluding to the influences of both Indigenous and European cultures on Unaipon’s vision of a universal force that can go by any number of names.

This work reflects elements of the bush with dusty winds and ochre coloured fibre coverings under which 6 dancers roll in unison like animated banksia bushes. The work weaves 2 worlds together with simple compositions, overlaying modern and Indigenous dance. Unaipon is a work rich in thematics and visual imagery, however the sections attempting juxtapostion and fusion of dance styles are choreographically thin. The strongest sections of the work are those that embody the raw, highly expressive physicality of regional Indigenous dances. References to celestial beings and prayer herald a ritual return to water, a life coming full circle.

Stephen Page’s Rush leaps out of Triple Bill with a startling shift in style. Superbly acted and danced it uses a dance theatre genre to take us on a journey through religion, confinement, substance abuse and the plight of the Stolen Generation. Woven through the stories is the presence of a spirit woman reminding us of a spiritual path which is ever present, guiding and calling us to return to our roots. The strength of Rush lies in its choreographic language which embraces contemporary culture whilst being deeply rooted in ancient myths. The stunning set designed by Peter England provides the final focal point with rivulets of flowing charcoal water, a symbol of hope but also a call not to forget a dark past.

Bangarra Dance Theatre, Dunstan Playhouse, March 4-6

RealTime issue #60 April-May 2004 pg. 30

© Helen Omand; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2004