Dancing Metaphysics

Philipa Rothfield: Shelley Lasica, History Situation

Questions of space and time often arise in Shelley Lasica’s work. Space has been highlighted in a number of her Behaviour Series, with work being presented in very small rooms, in large auditoriums, in hallways, and in galleries. In those works, the viewer was often and variously made aware of the ways in which his/her body was implicated in the viewing relationship.

History Situation, like Situation Live (1999), presents issues in a sedimented manner. Its themes appear to be trapped beneath that which occurs on the surface. For example, there is a sense of narrative in both works. Dancers combine, interact and separate. There is almost a story to their actions but the nature of the story is never made clear. Rather it is treated performatively and according to kinaesthetic relationships.

Five dancers enter the newly refurbished Horti Hall, all in turquoise. Each takes off his/her cloak and rests it on the warm wooden floor. The space is wider than it is deep. A large translucent rectangle lies on a tilt at the back, lit in reddish brown. Two monitors show a series of images by Ben Speth. These are sparse public spaces; phone booths, atriums, streetscapes, banks—locations populated not by people but reminiscent of them. The locations may be deserted but their content suggests a virtual habitat within which human movement may be found, movement such as occurs outside the monitors.

The dancers are connected. They enter together and leave together. They wear the same colour and material, folded and pleated to suggest a degree of individuality but clearly they are of similar ilk. A delicate piano arises; the staccato rhythms of Jo Lloyd’s movement offers another music. The 5 form a number of beautiful tableaux—5 green bottles, all in a row. Not all the movement is elegant, dancerly; some of it is gestural, occasionally naturalistic. Jacob Lehrer and Jo Lloyd perform and repeat a duet. Deanne Butterworth and Bronwyn Ritchie move their hips in synch. The group gathers then disperses. Repetition, recognition.

The look of the Other plays its part in these comings and goings—bearing witness, signifying relationships. There is conflict, and opposition; referring perhaps to events within what is called the Source Script by Robyn McKenzie. The dynamics of 5,4,3,2 and 1 are quite complex in all their combinations, especially as there is a sense that each configuration means something particular, something that cannot simply be transferred from one body to another. And yet, the emergence of one body, one lived corporeality in all these dancers, is palpable. Although Lasica doesn’t perform here, her body is evident in the bodies of the dancers, an absent presence.

Francois Tetaz’ music assisted the sense of connection and buried narrative within and throughout the piece. Its ending was evocative, e-motional, allowing for personal speculation and imaginary dialogue. If this work was about time, the final moments of music and movement suggested a metaphysics of time, of lived time, human (inter)action, finite and focused. The dancers collect their cloaks and leave the space. Time is no more.

History Situation, choreographed and directed by Shelley Lasica; dancers Deanne Butterworth, Tim Harvey, Jacob Lehrer, Jo Lloyd, Bronwyn Ritchie; music Francois Tetaz; set and lighting Roger Wood; costumes Richard Neylon; source script Robyn McKenzie; images Ben Speth, Horti Hall, Melbourne, March 14-24.

RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 pg. 38

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

1 June 2002
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