Oscillate’s beetle dancing

Diana Klaosen

Rachel Pybus, Kyra Pybus, Oscillate Youth Dance Collective, Scarabs

Rachel Pybus, Kyra Pybus, Oscillate Youth Dance Collective, Scarabs

According to the program for the 4 free performances given by Oscillate Youth Dance Collective, Hobart is Australia’s only capital city whose university does not offer tuition in the discipline of dance. While there are private teachers and classes, for many dance students Year 12 is where the formal training and experimentation stop.

The consequent lack of resources and opportunities—and of avenues to perform and present “dance as an accessible conceptual medium”—are motives behind the formation of Oscillate (Kyra and Rachel Pybus, Jasmin Rattray, Jessica Rumbold, Tullia Chung-Tilley, Edwina Morris). The group acknowledges the inspiration and support provided by dance teacher Lesley Graham.

The dancers share a background in dance/contemporary movement/choreography studies (Years 11 & 12) at Rosny College and have recent experience in the Hobart Fringe Festival, plus individual work with dance companies Tasdance and Par Avion. Scarabs was danced and choreographed by all Oscillate members and devised in partnership with the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery that has, over the past few years, presented a number of innovative dance works with related exhibitions.

The 30-minute performance features ingenious costuming (inspired by the Museum’s extensive beetle collection), a unique, custom-mixed soundtrack that is more an eclectic mix of sounds and rhythms than music (“stomachy sounds” as one dancer put it at the post-performance forum) and a simple and effective lighting design. The piece worked well as a site-specific dance installation, responding to its intimate gallery space.

The work is deceptively simple, with barefoot performers in costumes suggesting the iridescent winged surface of the scarab beetle. Each dancer enters with her back to the audience. As she turns, she is revealed to be ‘gagged’ by a beetle-shaped mouthpiece, its sexual and violent overtones inescapable, even if perhaps not part of the ensemble’s intentions. The scarab beetle theme and the group’s fascination with the museum’s displays give this essentially abstract dancework a strong coherency.

Initially, subtle movements are made in synch; then the choreography expands with each dancer performing her own variations, while still reacting to and with the rest of the troupe. The collaborative choreography is, just occasionally, derivative, but overall the gestures and sequences are attention-getting—good, athletic contemporary dance. The beetle theme is well maintained, giving the performance an other-worldliness wisely free of movement mimicry.

The standard of dance is high; it is evident that some Oscillate dancers have experience in gymnastics and aerobics. A highlight is one dancer who has virtually mastered the knack of barefoot pointe dancing.

The printed program is a useful extra detail to a very professional work, the catalogue essay expanding on the dancers’ concerns and inspirations. With its genesis in a ‘brainstorming’ creative process and the product of 4 months’ collaborative work, Scarabs is a worthwhile project successfully brought to fruition and clearly much enjoyed by a responsive, standing-room-only audience.

Scarabs, performance installation by emerging choreographers, Oscillate Youth Dance Collective, Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, July 20 – 23

RealTime issue #39 Oct-Nov 2000 pg. 7

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

1 October 2000