Next Steps

Virginia Baxter

It’s almost expected these days that performances will appear at all corners of the room, offering the audience all manner of perspectives. My personal favourite is still the perspex panel inserted in the ceiling of the Performance Space to reveal earth shovelled above the audience’s heads, ‘burying us alive’ in the Sydney Front’s Passion (1993). Anyway, just when we thought we’d seen all the Performance Space had to offer, Next Steps uncovered more: an attic; a wall shelf; a window; a space above a doorway; and then a circle in the centre of the room, all of us sitting on portable stools. To our right, Fragment 1 by Leisa Shelton gave us a horizontal show of legs defying gravity, lining up and slipping out of view. And how strange legs are when you look at a line of them for long enough. This serious fun with movement and space included some very nice finger and footwork from accordionist Gisel Milon.

Along a narrow platform, Jean/Lucretia—Nikki Heywood singing beautifully from Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and taking a movement microscope to her grandmother Jean, guiding us through and into her stance, her gait, the way she stood when she laughed, taking all of this into her own body and out again, not quite becoming but commenting on it all in a personal, emotional and at the same time detached demonstration of memory.

In three separate spaces, Andrea Aloise and Katia Molino created Gynaecology I, II and III, beginning with some wriggly work through a see-through tube, some raunchy bum waggling and concluding with an evocative, silent scenario at a window that definitely has the makings of a longer work. Outside the door and in the ceiling, Alan Schacher retraced the steps of some former inhabitants of the Performance Space, recreating remembered movements from his own and other performances.

Anna Sabiel stepped inside her metal rigging and fell into suspended animation inside this external body while the machine breathed sound around her. In the studio and at the windows of the office space, photographer Heidrun Löhr created a theatre of images from the landscape round Tibooburra along with a set of tableaux containing suggestions of movement—boat, fan, tree, caught inside rusting metal frames.

In Fugue, a film directed by Louise Curham, choreographer Sue Healey’s four dancers moved through physical spaces, some we might identify as real, others far less certain. Bodies transformed, shuddered, flew across the screen in the (very) cool air outside the theatre. In Gideon Obarzanek’s postmodern apache dance with Narelle Benjamin, My Brother-in Law’s Most Disfunctional Marriage, movement became metaphor, the couple all angles and impossible connections.

Kate Champion is an inventive dancer with a nice sense of humour. Her pieces in last year’s Steps program (a woman falling upwards from her dress, a drugged girl barely able to stand) take some beating. This year, her work Of Sound Body and Mind lays bare the fears of the damaged body, complete with amplified sound of knees creaking (audience groaning in sympathy) as Champion repeatedly steps up and down from a chair to change a continually failing light bulb.

Finally, Jeremy Robbins explores all the gymnastic possibilities of a bathtub full of water in a very athletic striptease displaying the pure pleasure of the body at full stretch, directed by Gail Kelly with her usual theatrical flair. This year’s Steps program was a nice step up from last year’s Steps One. The participating artists are linked by their work being primarily physically based and by collectively representing dance/physical performance in its broadest terms. Curator of the program, Leisa Shelton (Theatre is Moving) has plans to tour.

RealTime issue #7 June-July 1995 pg. 25

© Virginia Baxter; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 1995