Border dancing

Keri Glastonbury: Antistatic 2002

The Fondue Set, Blue Moves

The Fondue Set, Blue Moves

There’s plenty of static between the channels in the first of Antistatic’s 2 curated programs of short works by mostly emerging choreographers, fuzzing as it skips between a familiar aesthetic mix of the re-modernist, avant-grunge, retro and pomo. The styles segue between the boundaries of dance, physical theatre, multimedia and contemporary performance. This format works well, giving floorspace to performers working outside company structures and nudging along possible interstate touring models for contemporary work (here between PICA and Performance Space).

Simon Ellis, devisor and performer of the first work, Full, seems antipathetic toward modernist myths of progressive accruals. He uses as one of his motifs of resistance the voiceover of an old woman. It often strikes me that we think of older people as somehow belonging to the past, as not being in the present cultural moment, similar to the way anthropologists view so-called ‘primitive’ cultures. As if people(s) come adrift, like the old man lost in a boat, with Ellis incorporating from far up in the seating, the action of trying to start a motor. The piece is very ‘being and nothingness’, full of filmic after-images ghosting in corporeal memories and transitory states, light projections, smoky screens and inscriptions. The claustrophobia of the present is represented by Ellis’ spasmodic movements in the back corner of the floor, though I’m weary of the suit as shorthand for the cloned (and here quite chiselled and ‘modern’ in the ‘old’ sense) office worker. Overall the work seems both too ethereal and too mannered at once.

What is interesting is that the dancer’s body (while seamlessly attenuated within the work) isn’t necessarily primary. Nor is vision privileged especially. Full’s multimedia layering harnesses the technologisations of sound, in a way which becomes just as materially suggestive of the labour of the corporeal. In Jacqueline Grenfell’s sound design there’s real exhaustion in the sounds of Gestetner machines breathing their copies, it feels throughout as if something is going to give. “Full is an old woman with no space left to go. The work examines the internal world of an 87 year old woman who is uncertain whether she is ‘walking or being pushed’” (program note).

The Fondue Set (Emma Saunders, Jane McKernan and Elizabeth Ryan) are more idiomatic. Yet they come pre-figured, dressed in red, like Frumpus in heels (or perhaps the 3 Charmed sisters). We see them first at the courtyard bar, propped up against it, trying to get a drink. This is a gestural theatre endemically choreographed at bars throughout the city, their drunken lunges soon morphing into the guttural grunts of a form of karate. The Fondues return later with Blue Moves in the theatre: it’s cheesy and getting gloopier. During a stumbling act, all trembling red lips and intoxication, I glimpsed the little red punctum of a punctured knee. The first piece is succinctly abbreviated stand-up, the second piece suffers more from its logic of exhaustion, repeating itself to a slightly drawn out arbitrary standstill.

Helen Omand’s Rapt has a retro aesthetic, her set laid with artefacts from the 60s. It’s a dance theatre piece so visually heightened that the voice work is something of a shock. Her use of recorded material is more transporting, from fragments of Neil Diamond songs to the pop psychology of ‘how to build a magnetic personality’ on the record player. Omand’s analogue world seduces us and she seems to penetrate its affective level, without it turning into kitschy housewife camp. Hers is more an excavation of dusty histories, an homage to your mother—halcyon moments of modernity now lost, yet astoundingly recaptured (by someone too young to remember?).

The 2 dancers in Twosomely seem too inscribed by their dance training to really investigate the ideas set up by the piece. “There is a power in duality that arrives through tracing subtle differences between two individuals, whilst also acknowledging the sameness inherent in their core” (program note). Young and emerging out of a crate, the dancers lack the more dance degree zero form in which I’ve seen these same ideas exquisitely examined. Choreographed by Felicity Morgan, from Western Australia, the piece nevertheless stands out for its simply honed minimalism, gently steeped in the aesthetics of wrap around muslin pants and yogic flexibility.

Branch Nebula’s (Lee Wilson and Mirabelle Wouters) Sentimental Reason is a more primal and incommensurable pas de deux. Lee Wilson is irritable, pouting and sullen, while the half harnessed Mirabelle Wouters canters around him. She starts to generate a real flow for the piece, using the equivalent of the metonymic in movement in her ‘becoming horse.’ A cross between Iggy Pop and Equus, Wilson’s masculinity eventually explodes into a frenetic mosh-pit-of-one movement followed by some buff aerial work. That Wouters then gets nekkid is predictably feral perhaps, but adds an incarnate sense of flesh. Their base chakra exploration of the psychosexual in physical theatre works towards the form’s potential for embodied performance, with neither the male or female (horse or human?) subsumed or captured by the other.

Antistatic, program 1, Blue Moves, The Fondue Set, Emma Saunders, Jane McKernan, Elizabeth Ryan (NSW); Mobile States 1: Full, deviser, performer Simon Ellis, sound Jacqueline Grenfell (VIC); Rapt, performer Helen Omand (SA); Twosomely, choreographer Felicity Morgan (WA); Sentimental Reason, Branch Nebula, Lee Wilson and Mirabelle Wouters (NSW); Performance Space, Sept 25-28

RealTime issue #52 Dec-Jan 2002 pg. 24-

© Keri Glastonbury; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2002
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