between one and the many

philipa rothfield: ros warby, tower suites

Ros Warby (image 3 - with Ria Soemardjo), The Tower Suites

Ros Warby (image 3 – with Ria Soemardjo), The Tower Suites

Ros Warby (image 3 – with Ria Soemardjo), The Tower Suites


Ria Soemardjo sings. Her whole body becomes voice. There is a kind of simplicity to her physicality that makes space for the sound to emerge as pure affect. It is different with Helen Mountfort. There is something baroque about the whole thing, the curlicues of the cello, the space between the musician and her instrument, the compositional nature of the music. In Ros Warby’s case, the body is a staging ground for many different kinds of event. It begins discombobulated, a body in bits and pieces becoming organised. Ironically, it takes a great deal of skill to allow the body to unravel so as to stage its own organisation, rather like giving birth to oneself. But then, Warby is not shy of a challenge. Her focus, in its protean forms, keeps this intricate work together.

Tower Suites is collaborative. Its multiplicity of elements—cello, voice, film and dance—guide our perceptions. The elements each come to the fore and recede. The film lends weight to our seeing. That is after all its domain. At first, I was unsure whether to privilege Warby’s dancing, how to incorporate the other onstage bodies that don’t dance yet orient themselves to their own domain of art-making. But the processional nature of the first set of images, people in ritual dress moving along, allowed me to unite the group rather than consider each one severally. By the end, we all grasp the relationships that undergird Tower Suites.

Yet, this isn’t about relations between the women. Warby makes the work through a very specific choreography which draws upon a range of artistic qualities, sounds, images and affects. These are all different events, activities which draw in the soulful singing of Soemardjo, duet with Mountfort’s compositions and utilise a palimpsest of images (Margie Medlin), mixing history with colour shots of Warby’s own dancing.

Warby threads time by building fine movement that travels across space. The pull of a curtain entangling her legs evokes all the elegance of deco drapery in silhouette. She has a kind of commedia del arte character, a bittersweet condensation of human foibles. A repeated falling echoes the filmic citation of collapsing buildings, creating a certain kind of abstraction against the very historical imagery.

For Ros Warby, dancing is not enough. Her choreography seeks to incorporate more than itself. It swallows up Warby’s face, incorporating sound, voice and image. As a result, there is a richness to Tower Suites, which is emotional, sensory and personal.

Tower Suites, created by Ros Warby in collaboration with Helen Mountfort, Margie Medlin, and Ria Soemardjo; choreography, performance Ros Warby, light, projection, set design Margie Medlin, composition, cello Helen Mountfort, voice Ria Soemardjo, cinematography Ben Speth; Arts House, North Melbourne, February 22-26

RealTime issue #108 April-May 2012 pg. 24

© Philipa Rothfield; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

10 April 2012