Star turns: watching Stella b.

Erin Brannigan

Rosalind Crisp has spoken at length about studio-based practice; a collective of artists based around a studio, aligned with the particular type of dance practice which that studio represents. With this Stella b. series, along with the studio showings I have seen over the past 3 years at her Omeo Studios in Newtown, Crisp has achieved exactly this—a distinctive, productive centre of activity that comprises an important part of the rather dislocated dance activity in Sydney.

I saw Stella b. in the second and last weeks of the month-long development. The piece shown, which culminated in a reworking for Artspace in January (The View from Here), consists of a series of repetitions performed solo by dancer Gabrielle Adamik at the front corner of the performance space with duos, trios and quartets by Crisp and the other dancers (Nalina Wait, Lizzie Thomson and Katy Macdonald) unfolding on a plane behind her. The set of column supports running down the performance space of the studio, cutting the space by two thirds, becomes a margin for play with entrances and exits marked by the passage through this architectural feature.

Adamik’s repetitions perform a function similar to James McAllister’s performance in this same space in Six Variations on a Lie; a kind of bass note marking the progression of the work. The gentle, moderate and measured movements characterised by a swinging rhythm and a delicacy of touch, slowly revolve so that each movement is seen from several angles…like a turn-of-the-century study of human motion, but the ‘model’ here occupies a place between going through the motion and being immersed in it with ease.

Behind this, the groupings progress slowly along the floor, burst into the space with bold walks and swinging turns or hesitate with minute foot manipulations at the threshold of the space. Set against the steadiness of Adamik, the variations in energy and intention on this other plane are very satisfying, breaking the moderation just when it is required.

The intensity, detail, stillness and assuredness are all still here from Crisp’s solo work, as are the trademark elastic-ricocheting joints which a friend put her finger on. But with this group work, the edgy immediacy has been replaced with something much more ordered. The unpredictability is still there—perfectly-timed bolts with 4 dancers changing instantaneously from stop to go, or one dancer following a large, reaching gesture with a toe flick—and this is a real achievement. But the group work has obviously necessitated a huge shift—aesthetically and tonally—and it’s a very different experience to the solo Crisp we’ve come to know. The young dancers Crisp is working with have brought a lightness, clarity and ease to the work. It’s a new aesthetic chord in the work that signals a change for Crisp.

Importantly, Ion Pearce’s live sound work seemed to progress in tandem with the performance, being very different on the 2 occasions I attended the showings. The spaces in the score and diversity of sounds—electronic bleeps, percussive elements, music recordings—had an unpredictable quality that perfectly matched the performance.

Rosalind Crisp has been awarded a two-year Fellowship by the Dance Fund of the Australia Council and is one of the choreographer-dancers selected for the New Moves (New Territories) dance workshop at the Telstra Adelaide Festival 2000.

RealTime issue #35 Feb-March 2000 pg. 32

© Erin Brannigan; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 February 2000
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