The morning after

John Bailey: Jo Lloyd, Shio Otani, High Maintenance

Tim Harvey, Jo Lloyd, Luke George, High Maintenance

Tim Harvey, Jo Lloyd, Luke George, High Maintenance

Tim Harvey, Jo Lloyd, Luke George, High Maintenance

The dance works produced under the amorphous Chunky Move aegis are often characterised by a certain quality, regardless of their subject matter, which can only be described as party. Not celebration, not carnival, but party. From the chaotic, fragmented colour of Arcade to the dark no-tomorrow roar of Tense Dave, there seems to be a regular undercurrent of mad fraternisation which threatens to spill over into uncontrolled mayhem (ironically, last year’s I Want to Dance Better at Parties was their least party-like show). It’s fitting then that Jo Lloyd’s party-themed dance/installation High Maintenance was presented in the Chunky Move studios.

Lloyd graduated from the VCA in 1995 and has been spoken of recently as one of the “most likelies”of the current generation of young choreographers. In the past 7 years she has been developing a distinctive style which takes the nervy freneticism displayed in her work with Chunky Move and Balletlab to a level of more meditative introspection. High Maintenance is billed as a collaboration between Lloyd and fellow dancers Luke George and Tim Harvey, along with designer Shio Otani and composer Duane Morrison.

Audiences are issued with cardboard hats and party whistles as they enter the studio. We are instructed to line the periphery of the space, sitting on mats strewn with streamers, balloons, empty pizza boxes and cartons of beer. Shio Otani’s design appears consciously low key, the festive debris an appropriately haphazard mess. The atmosphere is boisterous and the audience enters into the spirit of things with gusto, filling the studio with chatter and cheer.

When the dancers enter the space we are presented with 3 bodies trying to piece together the events of the preceding night’s party. They shuffle wearily or slip into simple routines. Soon enough they begin to play out echoes of the party’s excesses, reconstructing key moments before returning to their hung-over torpor. Morrison’s dark, beat-heavy soundtrack is densely textured and the performers admirably work with the music without subsuming their movements to its dictates, falling in and out of phrases proposed by the aural soundscape. The lighting design is almost non-existent: house lights remain on for the duration, which detracts considerably from the ambience of the choreography at its most expressive. This is not a work about bodies in pure motion; where it aims to conjure a mood it does so in spite of the dull glare of the studio lights.

There are repeated suggestions of a love triangle, a betrayal, a gunfight, but these are only ever hinted at in stylised form and do not add up to a coherent series of events. The recurrence of certain sequences gestures towards the mutability of memory the morning after. One of the closing images is of Lloyd and George lying half-undressed upon a pile of lurid green streamers, shifting their hips and their centres of gravity to suggest a half-conscious post-coital discomfort without physically touching. Certain images such as this linger after the performance has finished, and though High Maintenance has difficulties adding up to more than the sum of its parts, the striking inventiveness of individual moments is somehow appropriate to its subject matter.

Ultimately, like the characters themselves, we are left doubtful about what really occurred. What is less uncertain is the potential Jo Lloyd and her collaborators display in this original and evocative work.

High Maintenance, concept Jo Lloyd, Shio Otani; choreographers/performers Jo Lloyd, Luke George, Tim Harvey; sound Duane Morrison; design Shio Otani; Chunky Move studios, Melbourne; March 4-5

RealTime issue #66 April-May 2005 pg. 18

© John Bailey; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2005