prediction and predilection

jodie mcneilly sees future tense at the opera house

Kenneth Flak, CYP17, Future Tense

Kenneth Flak, CYP17, Future Tense

Kenneth Flak, CYP17, Future Tense

TWO MEN IN WHITE LOOK TOWARDS THE FUTURE: CONCERNED, IMAGINING, CURIOUS, THEY PRESENT UNIQUE VERSIONS OF THE HUMAN BODY, RESISTING AND/OR SAVOURING THE TECHNO-EVOLUTIONARY TALE IN WHICH THEY ARE IMMERSED. THE INQUIRIES ARE DELICIOUSLY EVIDENT IN EVERY MOVING FIBRE.

In Erection, choreographed and performed by French Canadian Pierre Rigal and directed by Aurélien Bory, the dancer emerges into movement through an efficient and contained physicality. Erupting from stillness through punctuated arcs isolated in the ribcage, as though hoisted on invisible hooks, he progresses to executing 360 degree flips of his entire body from a supine horizontal position. I watch closely his interplay with various projected minimalist blocks and lines like the bar code motif. It takes me some time to extricate this relationship (hopefully not about human surveillance) and feel his steady emergence from motionlessness to scampering, hands and feet pawing into the mat, taking hold. He chases incidental space between moving lines wiped in left and right at different speeds projected on the white square mat: a world of possible obstacles. It presents a periphery, the precipice to some unknown circumscribed black. He skirts the edges, edges skirting him; he isn’t standing yet.

The second half of the piece is taken up by Rigal’s now fully erect masculinised figure darting about in boxing shorts, delivering his entire body airborne through the chest, dissonant in rhythm, unbounded in a wild cacophony of sound and staccato light. Can he fly in this body? He seems to ask, “What is beyond our verticality?”

The strongest image is Rigal in perfect replication, centrestage, appearing transcendant, Such a crisp projection toys with my perceptions: who is the live Rigal? He enters his own image, crawls into it like a cat suit, eyeballing the audience for the first time. He invites us to see the telos of his futurism in the fullness and security of our own skin.

Andre Gingas’ CYP17 engineers theatrical absurdity through movement choice, structure and storyline. Dancer Kenneth Flak’s early gestures are repetitive and richly textured in quality, establishing a character of quirky vulnerability. He expertly tacks between sitting and standing postures whilst various stills flash onto the back of the three walled structure isolating him from the probing outside world. A mesmerising path is minutely inscribed by his quivering hands into the back edges of the space while we are led into some Kurt Vonnegut-like world of factual abstraction courting obnoxious interruptions from high volume Bollywood samples. Moments of the bizarre are dropped in, literally thrown in by a figure in a white space suit entering from the stage left Exit door. The sudden inclusion of a bone, then the torso of a calico dummy with velcro attached limbs and head, punctuate the exploration by this isolated man in tight white shorts of his externally controlled world with apparently non-human curiosity and physical experimentation. And yet he responds at all times within the bounds of human reaction: fear, desire, disappointment and joy.

The random flicking between scenes, at first repetitive in theme, disconcertingly explodes elsewhere into a classic contemporary dance vocabulary followed by a gymnastic routine. I’m further confused by the performer’s declamatory critique of the USA and reporting of CIA conspiracies. Yet on reflection, how do we come to know something? How far do we go to master our relationship with the world? And. more pertinently, what is the range of our own possibilities?

Mikhail Baryshnikov’s curation of FutureTense presents two singular investigations of the limits and potentialities of human embodiment whilst constrained within the ‘measure of a man.’ Who better to ask than dancers who dwell and creatively dream in their bodies at length?

FutureTense: curator Mikhail Baryshnikov; Erection, performer, choreographer Pierre Rigal, director Auriélian Bory; CYP17, choreographer Andre Gingras, performer Kenneth Flak; Playhouse, Sydney Opera House, Aug 1-12

RealTime issue #81 Oct-Nov 2007 pg. 43

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

1 October 2007