Other times, other countries

Philipa Rothfield: Melbourne dance

Gerard Van Dyck’s Collapsible Man was an immediate hit at this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival. Van Dyck plays a whimsical, vaudevillian character, living out of a portable, intricately constructed box. Chair and table slot in and out, a bed of sorts springs out, doors form and reform. Van Dyck purports to lecture his audience—an interminable, anatomical collage is wound out of an overhead projector like an old musical box. God knows what kind of body snakes out, bones connected to implausible bones. He flips, slips and somersaults within the context of presenting his ‘ideas’ to the audience.

There is a gentle grace to this character, as if he might have been a renowned academic if he could only stop the impossibility of his own eccentricities. Instead though, it seems he is an itinerant of ideas. Some of his suggestions are simply lewd, however; an orifice is used to engulf his body to hilarious effect. Straddling the roof of his dilapidated abode, Van Dyck is finally confronted with a blinking neon sign: a giant arrow points stage left. At last, the penny drops, and Van Dyck sits down at the piano to sketch a musical conclusion.

Van Dyck uses all his dancerly skills in a very understated fashion. The result is an endearing presentation, oddly reminiscent of Brian Lipson’s A Large Attendance in the Antechamber (RT 41 p25), in the sense that both pieces involve strong performances of weird people from another time and place.

Little Asia Dance 2001 showed 5 dance works in Melbourne, before touring the lot to Hong Kong, Taipei, Korea and Japan. The first half of the show consists of 3 solos by women. Although coincidental, the dancing in these works is not dissimilar. Li Mei-Kuang’s The Last 15 Minutes (Taipei) is an emotional but dancerly presentation of a sense of yearning. Done with commitment, I have a sense however that there is a certain holding back from looking the audience in the eye. Hyan-Hea Bang’s Flashback (Korea) is more in-your-face, about self and identity, face and representation, involving 2 rows of pictures, which she uses dramatically. Wai-mei Yeung’s Tango of Water Sleeves (Hong Kong) is the most stimulating. Beginning with a stiletto walk along the back wall, in front of video projections of text, Wai-mei uses the space of the theatre more than her predecessors. The last segment is very effective, with canny use of video projections of a Beijing Opera character on her own body, effecting a virtual duet with herself.

The second half features the boys—Australian Brett Daffy and Japan’s Tsuyoshi Ozawa. Daffy shows Ward: Human Meat Processing Works about subjection and manipulation. He performs his suffering through dancing a distorted body that is artificially modified. His movement is both stunning and hermaphroditic. Ozawa’s piece is the more dramatic, about death, performed to Purcell’s famous lament from Dido & Aeneas. Ozawa has an incredibly flexible back that he uses to the max to convey feeling.

The Collapsible Man, choreographer/ performer Gerard Van Dyck, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Dancehouse, Oct 12-20; Little Asia Dance 2001: Hirano, solos by Li Mei Kuang, Hyan-Hea Bang, Wai-mei Yeung, Brett Daffy & Tsuyoshi Ozawa, C.U.B. Malthouse, Melbourne, Sept 27-29

RealTime issue #46 Dec-Jan 2001 pg.

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

1 December 2001