Trouble with destinations

Zsuzsanna Soboslay

Belinda Cooper, Audible

Belinda Cooper, Audible

Belinda Cooper, Audible

A loping slinking soundtrack slides across 50s mid-West domesticities, panty-twitch desires. This Happy Valley is soap opera scrapings, crackling radio, gluey mores of a country town. A horse and prairie loping in there somewhere. If home is where the heart is, then both home and heart are struggling here: the women stretching, straining from it (and each other) as if elastic, snapping in return. Unhappy valleying: conformity versus distinction, families, neighbours trying to keep each other tame. Rebecca Hilton’s choreography is inventive, quirky, freshly detailed. Hands, limbs, torsos, pushing, pulling, softly slapping tools. Emotionally, the dancers are better informed as the performance season runs: the piece is becoming crazier, more seedy and disturbed. The mother figure is perhaps the best fleshed out, Jo Lloyd infusing her performance with muted longing, with mildly tempestuous flicks, pigruts and kicks like a chained mare.

A radio voice croons: “I went away for a while. I travelled, but not far enough. Something kept pulling me back. I gave in. I went home”, but here, the daughter does depart, after her struggles, simply walking out the door. We need to see more of her struggle, feel more her imperative to leave. The scenes, for example, where mother and daughter parallel each others’ dance needs not just mirroring, but subtle (perhaps rhythmic) distinctions between them to clarify their mutual rebellions, abandonments and griefs, to articulate the struggle forwards and backwards between generations to do with knowing and liking—or despising—where and who you are.

Sandra Parker’s Audible, too, has developed since opening into a dance that is rougher, showing more jaggedness and verve, appropriate in a piece about bodies riddled with and ridding themselves of lovers/others. But these ‘others’ are not full bodies, only things which have disturbed already shaky cores: you journey from person to person; it’s hard. What is an arm beyond pointing, or clutching at its own straws. In fact, there seems no ‘other’ in this investigation: angular bodies jump against their own edges, are dissected by their own awkward clothing, swish in introspective pain. Where there is partnering, I can’t hear or see beyond the defence-lines spoken at one point by a dancer at a microphone: “You don’t know what I’m thinking: even if you ask me I can lie.”

There is a timidity to reaching out, reflected perhaps in the piece’s relationship with spoken words. There seems a palpable distrust that breath can continue with integrity into language; thus, the projected sentences are so thin as to be easier ignored. I suspect they have been edited down—a pity, as there are elements which lead me to suspect the piece’s intention is somewhere really valuable. This could be an interesting investigation of discrepancies between interior and exterior worlds (as attempted in the miked breathing of a dance segment), but my suspicion (even after a second viewing) is that this is a work which can’t grasp its own material, generally displaying a reticence of emotion (resistance to self-reflection?) and at other times, a strange inaccuracy. “She watched herself waiting,” speaks a prone body, “she was completely still,” whilst others neither illustrate nor counterpoint her text with a jagged dance that is hard to incorporate in the watching.

Technically, as always, Parker’s choreography and spatial patterning is very capable—although those straight gyrating arms are starting to bother me—and I admire the beginnings of a relationship to text that the dancers themselves have explored. I come away retaining most from Elizabeth Drake’s soundscore, and perhaps in there lies the clearest intention: like a train, the voice and breath, sometimes husky, sometimes sharp as slicing knives, move towards another, never reaching a destination.

Audible, choreographer Sandra Parker; composer and pianist Elizabeth Drake, dancers Joanna Lloyd, Belinda Cooper, Olivia Millard, Tamara Steele, Carlee Mellow; Happy Valley, choreographer Rebecca Hilton; dancers as above, sound design Katie Symes & Rebecca Hilton, lighting Efterpi Soropos, costumes Anna Tregloan, Dance Works, North Melbourne Arts House, May 4-6, 9-13

RealTime issue #37 June-July 2000 pg. 8

© Zsuzsanna Soboslay; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2000