dancing secrets

laura bishop: stompin’s uncover this

Stompin, Uncover This

Stompin, Uncover This

Stompin, Uncover This

UNCOVER THIS IS THE NAME AND SECRECY IS THE GAME, UNTIL THE NIGHT OF THE SHOW. YOU PICK UP THE TICKETS, THE VENUES ARE REVEALED. IN THE FIRST PART, ON A SUBURBAN STREET, THE AUDIENCE IS SPLIT INTO TWO GROUPS, ONE GOING INSIDE A HOUSE FOR HALF AN HOUR, ONE STAYING OUT, THEN THEY SWAP OVER. A WEEK LATER, YOU’RE SEATED AROUND THE EDGE OF A CUL-DE-SAC IN WHICH THE SECOND PART OF THE WORK IS PERFORMED. THE SECRECY GENERATED A SENSE OF PLAYFULNESS, AND OF LONGING. THE LOOKING INTO THE HOUSE AND PEERING OUT OF IT, AT THE PERFORMERS AND AT EACH OTHER, CREATED THE UNEASINESS AT THE HEART OF UNCOVER THIS BY LAUNCESTON’S STOMPIN.

There were some eight rooms in the house you could enter, six of which were inhabited by one to three dancers. The other two had binoculars with which you could peer into neighboring houses, or at the performance outside. Some of the audience refuse, others relish the opportunity for participation. Each room yields different emotions: you laugh while being fed what looks like baby food; you feel loneliness while lying on a bed by yourself in the middle of a dark room, two figures moving around you.

The two dancers attempting to feed you talk gibberish while you decide whether or not to eat, determining which way the scene will go. At other times you become an intruder, feeling as if you’re inspecting the most personal details of the inhabitants’ lives but with a simultaneous sense of voyeuristic intrigue. You have to keep watching, however uncomfortable you feel, sometimes alone in rooms that will only take one person at a time. In one room two dancers fold laundry and occasionally adjust your clothing—they roll up my sleeves. Some of the audience members don’t enjoy the physical contact. I enter a bedroom to find three girls arguing. One of them screams in my face: it’s fairly confronting and not easy to get out of the room because there are people behind wanting to come in.

Each of the rooms offered a sense of discovery, of something about oneself, or someone else. Sometimes it was simply a desire to get out of the house, but not being able to.

In the second part of Uncover, as you walk into the cul-de-sac cars blast music, people bicycle around you and friendly faces from the week before wave and say hello. Although this time you’re outside, there’s still the same sense of mystery and intrigue but with a new group togetherness—wondering what someone sitting opposite you, looking away, is thinking, in the same way you’re curious about the neighbours—what are they up to?

One image that stood out for me was of all the dancers coming together, forming a square and moving as one, like a crowd crossing at street lights. In the same scene a single beep in the musical score went into a fast continuous beeping, and the dancers, as if at a traffic crossing, broke out into individual moves, each finding their own way, then coming back together again. In another moment the repeated movements of the dancers were sometimes suggestive of slowly peering over the fence to spy on your neighbour, then shying away and reacting as if you were keeping to yourself, on your side of the fence.

Wheelie bins played a key role in Uncover This. In Part 1 a single dancer stood on top of one, moving it around without setting a foot on the ground. In Part 2 the action is repeated but with more dancers, and this time building what looks like a small barricade, and placing people inside some of the bins. We grow curious about what else is in them, wondering ‘Are wheelie bins sacred, surely not, but then why don’t we like people looking in them? Things we don’t want seen, aspects of our identities?’ When we do see the contents there is both a sense of discovery and intrusion. Two dancers tip their wheelie over, spilling out children’s toys. One of the performers pulls off her wig and throws it onto the pile. It was like some kind of personal cleansing I felt I shouldn’t have been witnessing.

The final beautiful image of the show has stayed with me: all of the dancers costumed in small internally lit cardboard houses. Each house was then placed on the ground and the dancers exited the cul-de-sac. Uncover This suggested that everyday life is a performance, everything we do is a dance of some kind.

I was amazed by Uncover This, the risks it took in timing and audience engagement, performing two discrete but related parts, each an entity on its own, and its success in using contemporary dance and movement to express the joy, sadness or inner turmoil that lie beyond words. Talented young choreographer Adam Wheeler uses simple movements and images to entrance his audience, and keeps us on our toes throughout. What’s around the corner? What’s behind this door? And what is in that wheelie bin?

Stompin, Uncover This, choreographer Adam Wheeler, performers 25 Stompin dancers, lighting designer Daniel Zika, composer David Franzke, video Daniel Speed, Sam Thiele, Launceston, Part 1, The House, Sept 30-Oct 4; Part 2, The Cul-de-sac, Oct 10, 11

RealTime issue #88 Dec-Jan 2008 pg. 32

© Laura Bishop; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2008