Searching for clues: Cameron and Parker

Philipa Rothfield: Dance Works, Fraught; Fiona Cameron, Looking for a Life Cure

Fiona Cameron, Looking for a Life Cure

Fiona Cameron, Looking for a Life Cure

Fiona Cameron, Looking for a Life Cure

Two attempts to represent the relation between self and world, similar in theory, utterly diverse in practice. Normally known for her abstract dance tapestries, in Fraught Sandra Parker (Dance Works) collaborates with dramaturg Yoni Prior to create an existential condition all too familiar—angst. A mood for our times, the work is a relentless presentation of intersubjective tension, irritation, frustration and rejection. The performers look like they have accessed their own interiority to give substance to the emotional flavours of the piece. A series of appeals, negations and irritated refusals occurs between the dancers. No-one is being nice to anyone. Not that they are cruel. Just caught within their own little world views, unable to walk in the footsteps of the other. And yet, there is no solipsism here. Hands press flesh, need fuels touch. Unfortunately, the touch of the other is not experienced as pleasure, rather, it is an imposition, unwanted and irritating. The pink residue of repeated tactile appeals looks raw, an injurious slight to autonomy.

Fraught sustains its emotional tenor throughout. Although there does seem to be some variation in the interactions between the performers, I can’t discern a qualitative difference at a meaning level. In the end I start to get irritable, probably proving Parker’s argument. There is no rupture between my own tensions and those on the stage. Without subscribing to the ‘art should be entertaining’ banality, I want to be shown a way out, a means whereby I can move on. Later I’m not so sure. Perhaps Fraught is like Derek Jarman’s film, Blue, a monochrome meditation. If so, it would be good to see the work in train as the audience enters, and still happening as they leave.

Fraught stands out as a courageous departure for Parker, away from the finely modulated abstract towards kinaesthetic feeling in the realm of the Real. Yoni Prior’s dramaturgy works well in terms of the visible integrity of the performers. Deanne Butterworth’s emotional embodiment is particularly convincing. Fraught is an attempt to represent a certain zeitgeist in movement terms. As such it is redolent and evocative, but it never aspires beyond reflecting the way the world is. It would be nice to see the hand of Parker within the work, saying something further about this, not a solution but perhaps another side, a neglected facet of an existential state of affairs.

Could Fiona Cameron’s Looking for a Life Cure offer an answer to the woes of Fraught? Get real. Nothing is too serious about this playful work. Performers Cameron, Brett Daffy and Kirstie McCracken engage in a number of scenarios, fantasies of acclaim, fame and gratification. None too promising, each does little more than depict the scene of satisfaction, certainly not its attainment. The joy of this work is in the dancing and in its quirky character. Cameron is a charismatic performer. Somehow she manages to combine skill with abandon. In one section she plays a French diva performing a deconstructed cancan as part of a Godzilla film. Take #1, take #2, take #3 requires the repetition of an enormously demanding routine. And yet, each time Cameron launches herself into huge leg extensions, jumps and floor work with the same self-possessed eccentric movement style. Brett Daffy is also a superb dancer, fluid and precise. There’s a sense that Cameron has collaborated with Daffy and McCracken to develop material, but each person’s movement has its own kinaesthetic flavour.

Performed upstairs in a wide but shallow room at the Malthouse, with one big window, I saw Looking for a Life Cure in the late afternoon. Set against a darkening sky, over time, architectural silhouettes transformed into twinkling lights. This added a poetic dimension to Cameron’s final, heaving figure against the window, offering no more than a moist and tired being. I left smiling.

Fraught, Dance Works, choreographer Sandra Parker, dramaturg Yoni Prior, dancers Deanne Butterworth, Jo Lloyd, Brooke Stamp, Michael O’Donoghue, Tamara Steel & Mia Hollingworth, Athenaeum Theatre 2, Melbourne, August 10-18; Looking for a Life Cure, choreographer Fiona Cameron, performers Fiona Cameron, Brett Daffy & Kirstie McCracken, The Tower, C.U.B. Malthouse, Melbourne, August 8-11

RealTime issue #45 Oct-Nov 2001 pg. 12

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

1 October 2001