room for everything and more

jonathan marshall on recent perth dance

Sete Tele, Matthew Morris, Didier Théron’s Les Locataires (rehearsal shot), Strut Dance

Sete Tele, Matthew Morris, Didier Théron’s Les Locataires (rehearsal shot), Strut Dance

Sete Tele, Matthew Morris, Didier Théron’s Les Locataires (rehearsal shot), Strut Dance

WORKING WITH STRUT DANCE, FRENCH CHOREOGRAPHER DIDIER THÉRON PRESENTED IN TWO WORKS BOTH A THEATRE OF ABSURDLY DISCONNECTED, ARBITRARY ACTIONS, AS WELL AS AN EXPRESSIONIST CHARACTER STUDY WHICH VERGED ON PHYSICAL CLOWNING.

In other recent Perth dance, Katrina Lazaroff staged a series of light, gender specific physical games which invoked both pleasure and a dark, childish intensity. Bianca Martin, like Théron, sketched a complicated, abstract dance theatre realm within which sexism, pornography and gendered leisure came together without actually producing a fully organised space, physically or dramaturgically. Chaotic bodies and expressive realms haunted all of these works.

Deborah Robertson however offered a gentle, minimalistic self-portrait of bodily articulations and the affects located in each of them. A deeply internal self-exploration, Robertson’s staging at times evoked early lyric Expressionist dance, rejecting the tendency towards disorder seen in the other works reviewed. Intensity here produced order and structure rather than fraying or destroying it. The work of Robertson, Martin and Lazaroff was presented as part of a triple bill, Get Yourself Some Art.

bianca martin

First in Get Yourself was Martin’s Packed Like Sardines In A Football Stadium, opening with one of her satirically coy mime dances to popular music (here Elvis’ Wonder Of You), performed by a lone female in a wedding veil, ignored by two drinking men leaning on a tabletop supported by the crossing legs of two prone female dancers. This juxtaposition of spaces left and right, of dramatic scenarios (idealised romance versus sexist spectatorship; friends jostling on the couch in front of the TV while two others posed and ‘swam’ like a soft-porn Sports Illustrated cover before them), and of differently sexualised spaces, defined Martin’s shifting aesthetic. A negative perspective was suggested by one of the men’s ‘wet T-shirt’ dousing of a female dancer, an act mitigated by his taking up a violin to play lilting, folk-Romantic motifs. Martin was not aiming to resolve these ambiguities but to activate them in everything from a stompy dance performed to I Am The Walrus through to a sequence where one of the women pulled at her face and moved doll-like in a ballgown—a dance for a ‘post-feminist’ world, where voyeurism is neither altogether condemned nor unproblematic.

deborah robertson

Robertson’s solo, The Deconstruction (of my shoulder blade), by contrast, established a melancholically beautiful space for internal reflection and celebration akin to Rosalind Crisp’s early work and others who map their bodies, their sensitivities and the small changes in self-perception (and self-presentation) which come from moving hips from parallel to the shoulders to a right angle, or other subtle shifts. Film projection explained Robertson’s physical iconography, recording, for example, as she moved her elbows to the horizontal and brought her fingers to her mouth that “My lips hold the love I have been given.”

katrina lazaroff

Get Yourself Some Art ended with the second of Lazaroff’s Pomona Road series on growing up, the first having been performed by two women (Lazaroff and Danielle Micich) in 2006. Part Two was performed by two men and largely consisted of rough’n’tumble masculine games drawn from Contact Improvisation in its relaxed muscularity and in the push-and-pull of bodies. Props served as tools of aimless play. A pipe became a phone, a knife etc. I preferred Lazaroff’s more dramaturgically and musically focused Part One, using 1980s popular song as the soundtrack to a childish friendship so intense that it bordered on hate. The dramatic frame of two girls around a stereo gave more purpose and cohesion to their games than those of the boys. Rock actions like air-guitar or 80s dance served as the starting point for the girls’ play and fights—unlike the open-ended activities of the boys. Both parts though were distinguished by fine performances and astute musical choices, promising a strong Part Three.

didier théron

Didier Théron explained that both of his pieces were portraits of sorts: one of a tortured murderous figure from Dostoyevsky, and the other a group of five dancers. Neither though were psychological studies: both emanated from the alternations between the sensation of being crushed, of being fatefully led down a route, or of “extreme situations of disequilibrium, ruptures of energy and space”—as well as (more absurdly) those scenarios which switch from “the terrifying” to “the burlesque”, or from “miniscule dramas” to moments of high melodrama. In short, Théron’s dancerly oeuvre—whether touching on narrative themes in his Dostoyevskian solo or in his abstract event-piece Les Locataires—was focused on transitions and tensions. Théron’s own body in Raskolnikov was all spikes and sharp, taught enunciations. Even when curving an arm or grotesquely squeezing his face like a butoh dancer, Théron’s body seemed built of pins and triangles, rich as it was in pointillist jumps in energy from playful introspection to crazed mobile arcs and passages about the cleanly lit, almost Brechtian black stage.

Les Locataires may have exhibited an entirely different bodily palette, constructed as it was through tasks given to five local dancers. It nevertheless reflected the same sense of an ‘itchy’ space, a site lacking resting places, within which the body was forced to find something to do, something to act on, to counterpoint or to generate new textures each time the weight of bodies in one corner had become too heavy, or the bored play with a jumper pulled over the head went on too long. Tragedy or burlesque, madness or disinterest, both works tested the limits of these states—in the first instance through the body and its own actions, and in the second through an architectural and musical deployment of bodies as just another sculptural or musical object within the visual field.

Théron thereby offered two apparently distinct aesthetic visions. These were the choreographic space as a site for the dramatic body, as eloquent and melodramatically intense as Pina Bausch. In Les Locataires however we moved to the theatre as a space within which to stage essentially meaningless or expressively obtuse actions whose true effect lay in the generation of textures, clusters and sudden, almost telepathically activated deconstructions of these set-ups—get under the table, get off it, move around it, come to the front of the stage, and above all explore EVERYTHING on the stage (tattoos, clothes, arms, skin, walls, hair, silence etc). Looking past such features though it becomes apparent that all of these materials were deployed in a manner akin to stringing a square and a triangle together on a rubber band. Like the postmodernist legends with whom he has worked (Cunningham, Brown etc), Théron seemed more interested in the fundamental palette of relations which underpins all action on stage than he necessarily was with the dramaturgical trappings through which such structural correlations are realised. Seen from this perspective, Robertson and Martin too can be seen to be working within the same expanded field of dance within which we find ourselves in this post-postmodern world.

Autoportrait Raskolnikov and Les Locataires, choreographer, performers Didier Théron, Claudia Alessi, Aimee Smith, Sete Tele, Sue Peacock, Matthew Morris, Strut Dance at PICA, May 26-27; Get Yourself Some Art: Packed Like Sardines In A Football Stadium, choreographer Bianca Martin, performers Aisling Donovan, Brooke Leader, Keira Mason-Hill; Pomona Road Part 2, choreographer, sound Katrina Lazaroff, performers Tim Rodger, Joshua Mu, projection Sarah Neville, Isaac Lummis; The Deconstruction (of my shoulder blade), choreographer, performer Deborah Robertson, dramaturg Lucy Angell, projection, Cobie Orger; lighting Deidre Math, Blue Room Theatre, May 10-26

RealTime issue #80 Aug-Sept 2007 pg. 49

© Jonathan Marshall; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 August 2007