Remembered dislocations

Philipa Rothfield: Dance Works, The Point Hotel

Danceworks, The Point Hotel

Danceworks, The Point Hotel

Danceworks, The Point Hotel

The scene is tan, oatmeal and fawn, the dancers wear cream, their flesh a pale beige against the sepia floor. There is a sense that we are not in the present. The atmosphere is 1950s, its colours evoke John Brack’s signature work, Collins St, 5pm (1955). Benny Goodman’s music and Serge Gainsbourg’s songs are redolent of the past. Minimal furniture—a line of outdoor chairs—suggests a lawn descending towards a windswept beach. A woman sits on one of the chairs, a girl periodically cycles across the stage.

Two young women enter the space. They mirror each other’s moves. It is possible that they are 2 halves of the one self. When they look at each other, it is not clear who or what they see. They may be as one. Eventually a third element breaks up this duet or solo times two. A young man joins the dance and a series of 3-way interactions ensues.

A great deal of their movement consists of gestures, found movements which are formed then discarded. There is a fairly consistent tempo to their performance, almost staccato. Not in a mechanical sense. It is as if their original import has been lost: they are literally going through the motions. These gestures are emptied of meaning, suggesting also that once they were fulsome actions of the sort that might be found in everyday life. This gestural palette does not appear to be the result of kinaesthetic investigation but indicates a reworking of ordinary life into dance.

There is an element of theatre about this work. Not the tanztheater of Pina Bausch perhaps, but it is nevertheless about something. It represents a human drama. Its mode of representation is partly naturalistic (chairs, bicycle, girl, woman) and partly abstract, in the manner of silent movement. If it is a drama, it is also pared down. The subtitle of The Point Hotel identifies a “fleeting world of human connection.” So far as there is human connection in this world, it is momentary. The human interaction which occurs is somehow not sustained. It does not penetrate the subjectivity of its participants. Approaches are rejected, dependencies are intimated through limbs, hands, arms, the distal regions of corporeal being. Weight does not pass from one centre through the core of another.

This is not to say that there isn’t a good deal of activity, particularly among and between the trio. It is just that no-one appears to be genuinely ‘touched’ by the other. This is both a physical and emotional observation; that bodily boundaries are maintained leaving subjects intact, emotions held close. This would seem to be one of the statements of the work. The Point Hotel depicts an order of human relationships which is highly individualised.

The atomism of The Point Hotel is reflected in Dianne Butterworth’s presence throughout the work. She enters, and sits on a chair behind the danced action. She is not a participant in the action but rather oversees it. Is this her life? Is the girl on the bicycle her former self? We don’t really know. She is not the site of the action herself. We are not drawn to watch her for what is happening in the now. Her connection to the activity of the work may be through memory. If she does signify a temporal perspective, her feelings are enigmatic. It is not clear how she feels about the past. Any emotional import has to be found within the dancing figures. And they too are enigmatic. For all their sound and fury, they offer a canvas of exterior selves. This is why the ambience of The Point Hotel is, as the program note suggests, “dislocated.” The woman who sits as the action occurs, the young woman who wheels her bicycle, the 3 dancing figures and the audience are all dislocated with respect to one another. Is this dislocation an emotional lack of connection, or is it a lack of coherence over time, a split within the self over a lifetime?

The Point Hotel is a restrained piece. Its use of gesture is something of a hallmark of Sandra Parker’s work. As a work of memory, and in terms of its impact as memory, it is highly visual. Its colours, the minimal but evocative props, including its use of Butterworth as a human prop, leave one with a picture of a human landscape, one whose terms strive to connect but ultimately leave each other intact.

Dance Works, The Point Hotel, choreographor Sandra Parker; performers Deanne Butterworth, Katy MacDonald, Phoebe Robinson, Nick Somerville, Diana Pjenke; Space 28, VCA Drama Studio, Melbourne, July 15-24

RealTime issue #63 Oct-Nov 2004 pg. 41

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

1 October 2004