Next Wave Festival: Re-seeing the body in motion

Maximilian: Desert Body Creep

Angela Goh, Desert Body Creep, Next Wave 2016

Angela Goh, Desert Body Creep, Next Wave 2016

Angela Goh, Desert Body Creep, Next Wave 2016

Angela Goh’s naked bottom is rippling uncontrollably. Standing unclothed atop a vibrating platform her wobbling flesh seems to synchronise with the rock guitar soundtrack. As the speed of the vibration increases, so does her involuntary reaction. On a dancer, it’s an unexpected bodily response and a fitting climax to a work dedicated to mesmerising us with the qualities of movement.

Desert Body Creep, Goh’s solo dance work for Next Wave 2016 opens on a room scattered with debris. Surrounded by discarded fabrics, the platform and a sound sampler, Goh begins her episodic work with two languid dances accompanied by a sultry guitar-laden soundtrack. Recalling her short video works where she tested sending vibes to absent friends via dance, she generates a series of hypnotic pivoted torso twists and controlled backward rolls within the perimeter of a spotlight. A lush sense of being irrevocably connected to the earth is always present.

What begins as a meditation, evolves into a playful performance piece. She introduces her leitmotif: the worm. Its first incarnation is a half-metre gummi worm. Here ensues a surprisingly tender interaction, with Goh carefully animating the worm, twirling it across a stick until we are captivated by its undulating, unfurling form. It’s emblematic of her approach: we are calmly invited to marvel simultaneously at the silent, hypnotic charm in movement and the grotesque. Placing the invertebrate worm along her spine, she crawls slowly across the floor, before undergoing a radical transformation.

Allowing sound the same attention as motion, Goh samples her voice singing high, sustained notes, replaying them as a layered siren call. Entering a trance-like state, she shuffles prostrate across the floor like some B-grade horror movie monster with gaping mouth. Notes merge into a soundscape of screams, and she disappears into a velour casing: becoming a worm and devouring the debris in her path. In this ‘post post-everything’ scenario, as Goh describes it in the Next Wave program guide, it’s easy to imagine the Goh-worm devouring civilisation itself.

In the current context of Melbourne choreographer covering their performers in head-to-toe fabric to divest their bodies of gender and identity (for example: Geoffrey Watson’s Camel, Bec Jensen’s Explorer, Chloe Chignell’s Deep Shine), I wonder what it means for a dancer’s body to disappear into- and re-emerge naked from- a fabric worm. The humble worm may be a hermaphrodite, but Angela Goh emerges unequivocally, unashamedly female. There’s a clear sense of being cleansed of cultural conditioning. Stripped of gender expectations, it’s a pleasure to witness Goh commanding, even proud, in her role. She calmly packs these shed skins into a plastic bag and uses another worm— a vacuum hose— to suck any remaining life out of them before politely setting them aside.

Angela Goh seems to be book-ending for the audience a journey in what we recognise as conceptual choreography: from minimal dance, through performative movement, before returning to an appreciation of pure motion. Nudity is key in her transformation: Desert Body Creep is a meditation on re-claiming and re-seeing the body in motion…as it vibrates naked on a motorised platform.

Next Wave Festival 2016: Desert Body Creep, choreographer, performer Angela Goh, sound designer Matt Cornell; Northcote Town Hall, Melbourne, 17-22 May

Maximilian plays with fashion, dance, choreography, photography, video, performance production and direction in no particular order or hierarchy. His formal training is in design. His recent work includes Bless the Beasts: Shibuya Summer (Melbourne Fringe 2015).

This review was written in the DanceWrite dance reviewing workshop. Read more reviews here.

DanceWrite was conducted by RealTime editors Virginia Baxter and Keith Gallasch with mentors Andrew Fuhrmann and Jana Perkovic. The workshop was an initiative of Hannah Matthews as part of her Australia Council-funded Sharing Space program and was presented in collaboration with Next Wave and RealTime.

RealTime issue #132 April-May 2016

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

25 May 2016