Novel realities, new dance

David Fussell

Raimund Hoghe

Raimund Hoghe

Raimund Hoghe

Dancers are Sace Eaters provides the Perth independent contemporary dance scene with a mirror on itself and a lens on the outside world. Two Suits (David Corbett, Paul Roberts) opened the festival; literally planted among the VIP speakers at the opening night launch who did double-takes as the welcome slipped into contact improvisation. The performers’ tactile, acrobatic flourishes were a lozenge for the dance-happy.

As dance becomes less about perfecting existing techniques and more a matter of morphogenesis (the creation of novel reality) Perth is an interesting place to be in a dance audience. The connection between cultural studies and dance-making has all but swerved and missed here, where dance engages more with popular culture than semiotics.

My first response to NightShift (George P Khut, Wendy McPhee) was, “Ah, the inside of my head.” McPhee’s blank poem and a sequence of semi-stripteases on film, inter-cut phrase by phrase, sputtered at breakneck speed. Cascading into the peepshow darkness of PICA’s central space from 4 transparent screens, the effect was of visual, poetic and polemic chiaroscuro all in relative non-sequence, and yet it flowed. Sexistentialism: who knew desire was anonymous femme-fleshy staccato, crisp shadow and font at transcendent rate of variation? It seems obvious to me now.

Throw the Body into the Fight refers to the nature of Raimund Hoghe’s entry into solo performance-making back in 1994. The performance is a journey through the works he has created since, through excerpts and reflections. The excerpts comprised anecdotes and dance sequences; personal moments of meeting oneself in historical circumstances of (sometimes pleasant) dislocation and suffering. The dances, set to torch songs, displayed a technique reminiscent of Pina Bausch for whom Hoghe has worked as dramaturg. The song choice flowed from the given narrative of each anecdote, but the ensuing movement phrases, having only the slightest hint of narrative segue, were starkly literal, disjuncted, set in a personal present. The effect analogised Hoghe’s very real otherness; small for his age, with a twisted spine and hump, gasping sometimes for breath between clauses. Uncomfortable yet welcoming, he gave license to re-attach ideology to body-memory. The audience passes with Hoghe as a native ‘outsider’, looking in as a post World War II German crossing out into a new and unfamiliar international politick—an essay in the instability of citizenhood. The lucidity of childhood, its time-looping, space-warping is a key to Hoghe’s performance and, I imagine, teaching logic. A complex encounter, not for everyone but a rare gift to Perth performance artists.

New dance has been about physicalising one’s creed. Graduate dancers have mostly relied on the obvious rules of engagement given by the stage-dance tradition. But contemporary dance audiences require a new kind of communication in the performance exchange. Do dancers know that the other disciplines they employ, like cinematography, visual art and narrative are fully-fledged and flux-ing disciplines in their own right? Even with short cuts and dabbling, gaining adherence for their work requires the additional form (or formlessness) of a performance structure—a communication mode.

Showcase 1 presented local dance groups doing new and extant work. In Commentary and The View Outside, Paul O’Sullivan experiments with hybridity (the added dimension is interactive video); in the former, to parody the discourse of contemporary dance, and in the latter to argue social justice through a ballet fairytale treatment of everyday class violence. Brave and mature but I imagine, grating to non-dancers. In Contact, Danielle Micich created a refreshingly feather-light critique through parody of the classical ballet ingénue. A post-modern chestnut, it was nonetheless lovingly rendered here, through technique, costume and music selection.

Watching Sete Tele and Rachel Arianne Gold in the collaboration N_TN_GOLD I was reminded of Chunky Move’s send up of ‘intricate and detailed’ movement (this being very popular among Australian audiences according to the company’s survey piece, Wanted). Performed with the kernel of an original voice, humour and darkness under sumptuous data-projected lighting effects, I felt I could look at N_TN_GOLD but not touch, nor be touched. Chasing Terror by Olivia Millard was a heartening example of independent dancers of varied experience and background working collectively. In the scheme of the night, it was unusual to see dancing without theatre or technology. I could not tell though whether the distance in their faces was performative or from the stress of ambitious risk. In any case, the length of the piece slightly outlasted its idea.

It is a difficult testament to the flaneurial nature of Perth dancer/choreographers in their relative isolation, traveling to national and international centres of dance, that upon returning home, the rich data collected does not (yet) necessarily translate into the local language. Now as cultural studies shifts from theory to functionality it will be interesting to see if and when it swings over Perth it will create a new legibility for dance here, if only by osmosis.

Dancers are Space Eaters, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, Oct 29-Nov 15

RealTime issue #58 Dec-Jan 2003 pg. 30

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

1 December 2003