Image by Lucy Parakhina

Culminate – to reach the point of highest development.

As the header for a project Culminate is perhaps a little misleading. Culminate is the second part of an initiative, spanning two years, to give selected independent artists an opportunity to choreograph, created and facilitated by Force Majeure and presented in partnership with Performance Space and Carriageworks.

Like Cultivate, the first part of this program, which occurred last year, this event began with a disclaimer by Kate Champion stating what we were about to witness was not a polished performance, but a showing of the results in progress from a week of workshopping.

This is definitely a worthy venture, although I couldn’t help but think, while the overall experience was positive and beneficial, the relatively short time period, combined with the sharing of performers, didn’t give the choreographers much time to move forward.

Choreographer Jason Pitt’s work Untitled#14 felt more dramatically cohesive in the first development. I recognise the calling of numbers, so presumed I understood what the work was aiming to express. I remember Jason referring to the numerous, and oft times extraneous factors which come into play, when instigating a new work. His original development was a commentary on those factors.

This development was more abstract, with less verbal input than the previous development. The opening visual, with a male dancer balancing face down on all fours, suspended upon furniture, above a paper shooting range target, promised a greater physical gravitas. This work felt surreal, like a Joan Miro painting or Jean Arp Sculpture, with seemingly unrelated pockets of colour and virtuosic movement peppering the stage. Not reading the program beforehand, I was curious about the physical puzzle Jason presented, trying to reconcile my previous knowledge with this development. Possessing a familiarity with some of Jason’s previous works, I couldn’t help but think the separate elements would suit a filmic format, as Jason has successfully transferred ideas to and from theatre to digital media in the past, using film to enhance/introduce a psychological element.

Ghenoa Gela has a flair for rallying an audience, taking them on a upbeat ride filled with laughter and awe, partly due to her diverse performance experience, having worked  as contemporary performer collaborator with Shaun Parker and myself,  and as MC for Circus Oz and popular children’s TV program Move it Mob Style.

Ghenoa introduced her work, referencing her interest in creationist mythology. She spoke about her interest in finding the western equivalent and settled on early European fables. The focus was on re-telling story utilising spoken text and choral movement.

Ghenoa’s investigations were twofold, the second was the incorporation of props, the use of hand held lighting, which was intrinsic to the story telling, later becoming a separate element. Ghenoa’s dancers cleverly manipulated the lights to create faces and objects, from a rollercoaster to a plane jettisoning down a runway. Selected audience members were instructed to become lighting technicians, acting as roving spot lights,  the dancers finishing with a contemporary Torres Strait Islander rhythm dance, the lights alternating switching on and off at every beat point, acting as Kulups (beaded rattles held in the right hand) or Maraps (split bamboo instruments held in one or two hands). I was uncertain about the conceptual relevance of the later lighting sequences in regards to the initial investigation, but recognised the contemporary significance in relation to her indigenous cultural form.

I also wondered why she made no reference to the Bible, western cultures most visible and enduring contribution to creationist mythology. Indigenous creationist histories are closely linked to social construct and law, and the bible, or the Koran and other religious doctrine, provides the equivalent importance. I am familiar with Ghenoa’s extensive knowledge of Manga (Japanese illustration) and thought perhaps her choice was influenced by her interest in contemporising or utilising that form.

This is potentially a very ambitious project and it will be interesting to see where or if this is explored further.

Victoria Hunt’s work You Could Fail is indicative of her training in body weather and photography. The result was an exploration into the use of light and sound and its effect on her manufactured environment.

This piece was deliberately dark and slow to begin, with lighting on the peripheries, alternating on and off, in a sequential pulsing circle,  subtly exposing bodies that ascended and descended in the tiniest of increments, resulting a very meditative offering that was enhanced by James Brown’s loud and overwhelming score. Sitting high in the stall, I could feel the vibrations reverberate through my entire body.

This meditative spell was broken by a duo dancing in a manic energetic diagonal, cutting the space like a knife and infusing the work with much anticipated vibrancy.

Ryuichi Fujimara’s short offering How Did I Get Here? seemed to epitomise the Culminate experience. His light lament on entering the autumnal period of his life and/or dance felt resolved in comparison to the other works. I caught a glimpse of the wit and humour Ryuichi is able to communicate through the melding of spare architectural form, peppered with small gesture and verbal anecdotes, reflecting his often unique perspective of/in life, a humour I have only ever seen as a regular performer in the Whip It improvise exchange evenings. Where his piece seemed to sum up his developmental experience over his past four years, engaging as a participant in this and the previous (inaugural) program, the others seem to still be in the midst of initial explorative discovery.

There is no doubt as to the merit of this initiative, bodies to work with, space to conduct experimentation, time to address, down-time to reflect, time to redevelop, expand and edit, the opportunity to show, share and discuss with peers and exposure to industry reps.

I am curious to witness the inevitable culmination of this year’s event, to see a fully realised outcome for one, if not all, of these artists.

– by Vicki Van Hout