beautiful hybrids

victoria carless: bonemap, whispering limbs

Earl Rosas, Whispering Limbs, Bonemap

Earl Rosas, Whispering Limbs, Bonemap

A dancer, Earl Rosas, enters a darkened space, bare-chested. He balances a bowl with goldfish on his head. Subtle images of ripples are projected on a large screen on the back wall, underscored by watery musical rhythms. The dancer fluidly eases his way to the floor, as though the life he bears is sacred. The right angled shapes he makes with his arms are intriguing, hinting at ritual, and so precise and contained that I soon lose my fear for the fish’s safety.

Bonemap, Whispering Limbs

Bonemap, Whispering Limbs

Rosas exits and the mood shifts: enter a troupe of bright young things, two men (Rosas and Efeso Fa'anana) and three women (Rebecca Youdell, Lisa Fa'alafi, Leah Shelton) dressed in their best sharp suits and elegant dresses. Powerful synchronised articulations belie their demure appearance. They also manifest on the wide screen behind, running fast-forward over a neat lawn, evoking partygoers at an afternoon garden soiree. Gradually, onstage the dancers break form, their movements becoming disjointed and irregular. They appear disturbed, even slightly manic, as they work their way through a kind of collective bodily neurosis, moving towards a tall cylindrical scrim; a white bone in the dark.

Slithering under the scrim they undress to reveal silk slips—the men too, one in a lacy black number and the other in red. Now the performers are less constrained, transformed even. They slither out and once again we see their doubles in projection. This time they move through a midnight bushland setting, their urgent pace contrasting with the ghostly sentinel-like trees.

More striking moments ensue; memorable are the eerie image of a girl floating in a suitcase holding a single light globe, and an extraordinary representation of a live 'meringue' doll. Here, the performer brings an innocuous piece of white material to life. She emerges from it slowly as if from a cake or a cocoon. The material then morphs into a skirt which although voluminous restricts her movement. This beautiful metamorphosis may ultimately be a limiting one.

Rebecca Youdell, Whispering Limbs, Bonemap

Rebecca Youdell, Whispering Limbs, Bonemap

The funny bone gets a tickling too; Rebecca Youdell’s quirky bush ballerina throws us her bouquet of weeds at the end of a gum chewing interlude, and Efeso Fa’anana’s figure in overalls fusses over a perfect circle of lawn, before handing out a piece to an audience member as if it were a slice of real estate.

The theme of water is revisited in the form of three raincoat clad creatures in gumboots trudging over to a small pool. Here they proceed to drip and leak slowly from their costumes as if beings made entirely of liquid. Perhaps this is an ironic comment on water consumption in these times of climate concern.

Shadow play is another device explored in Whispering Limbs. At one point the three female dancers teeter behind the scrim in exaggerated heels, hats and structured hoop skirts. They posture suggestively, their shadows evoking a larger than life burlesque show. Here we are caught between the real bodies of performers and their darker spirits, privy to the interplay of the tangible and the ephemeral. This sequence climaxes with the arrival of a metallic frame structure, where the fish makes its final appearance. The bowl becomes a coveted item for the dancers, instigating a mad scramble for possession. Thankfully, the enigmatic man of the first scene ensures its survival. We are left with the image of this serene being holding the goldfish in the bowl, just as the world holds him in its lulling turn. Order has been restored.

Whispering Limbs evokes issues and images of spirituality, ecological sustainability, transformation and doubling, generating a metaphysical whirlpool of ideas and images. The media components integrate with the physical performance perfectly to produce a work that, in the end, defies categorisation. Beautiful and strange, Whispering Limbs is part dark ritual, part mad hatter's tea party.

9 July 2009
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