missing martin

pauline manley: martin del amo, slow dances for fast times

Jane McKernan, Slow Dances for Fast Times, Carriageworks

Jane McKernan, Slow Dances for Fast Times, Carriageworks

SLOW DANCES FOR FAST TIMES IS A COMPILATION OF “CHOREOGRAPHIC PORTRAITS” IN WHICH CHOREOGRAPHER MARTIN DEL AMO COLLABORATES WITH 12 AUSTRALIAN DANCERS. A “SINGLE CHOREOGRAPHIC IDEA” IS THEN EXTENDED AND MODELLED INTO “MINI-ACTS OF SOLITARY DEFIANCE” (PROGRAM).

Designer Clare Britton creates a velvety vaudevillian palace. Red carpet, red curtains, roaming spotlights and rolling projected text create a place of history and burlesque. Already there lurks a joke, for del Amo’s choreographic repertoire is the antithesis of varietal entertainment. This contextual tension creates a coherent performance that slips between the serious and the silly, between the committed and the parodied.

Some of the ‘portraits’ navigate this tension with surety. This assurance is most notable in the last of the 12 solos, danced by Jane McKernan. While the sublime Kiri Te Kanawa sings Mozart, McKernan manages to simultaneously conjure del Amo’s signature minutiae and live up to the spectacle of the voice. Holding a static kinesphere throughout she makes minuscule adjustments, creating new physical stories, states and shapes out of the almost imperceptible, rearranging the lines of her body into bright and new contortions, born deep within. One foot is turned slightly in, one knee slightly bent, one arm held uncomfortably out, distended, making the subtle torture of unease while her head dances the dance of rapture. At times McKernan’s being is an orchestra of parts speaking to each other as she floats off kilter. At other times these parts break away from each other as the deep seated pressure of excruciating movement makes apparent the tremors that are allowed to exist in del Amo’s world. This solo of seductive and rapturous crucifixion was a fine finish to a long show.

Elizabeth Ryan, Slow Dances for Fast Times, Carriageworks

Elizabeth Ryan, Slow Dances for Fast Times, Carriageworks

Solos danced by Luke Smiles, Sara Black and Kirk Page are revisited versions of earlier works: “birthday present[s]” from del Amo to dancer friends. Involuted light heartedness becomes satiric as highly skilled dancers move about as children or chorus line drunks, in a display of anti-technique. This was made more patently clear in the ‘bonus track’ finale, a new ensemble choreography where the salient formations and styles of well known local dance companies are gently, fleetingly, but clearly lampooned.

Certain choreographic and political strands emerged from this evening’s retrospectivity: self-referencing, political possibilities of movement and commitment to clearly refined and recognisable physical techniques. Certain recurrent physicalities reveal del Amo’s choreographic proclivities: the gentle distortions of discomfort as bodies are drawn away from graceful wholeness. The circular transcriptions of space seen in the endless running round the floor patterns and in the arcing of dancers as they sweep around their own axis in that discombobulating ongoingness that makes these solos fade rather than end. Then there are those floating arms that trace, dangle and sway as body parts with mind. These arms are what most conjured the choreographer-body, making me miss Martin.

Martin del Amo, Slow Dances for Fast Times, choreographer, director Martin del Amo, dancers Sara Black, Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal, Benjamin Hancock, Raghav Handa, Julie-Anne Long, Jane McKernan, Sean Marcs, Kirk Page, Elizabeth Ryan, Luke Smiles, Vicki Van Hout, James Welsby, design Clare Britton, lighting Matthew Marshall, sound compilation Marcus Whale, production Performing Lines; Carriageworks, Sydney, March 6-9

RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 pg. 38

© Pauline Manley; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

22 April 2013