iOU Dance 2

My latest blog entry comes to you via home turf. I am back in Sydney and have already experienced the locally cultivated via IOU Dance 2 @ UNSW Saturday June 15, where nine of Australia’s most eminent performer/choreographers shared small snippets to be savoured by an eager, supportive and appreciative audience.

This is the second  program under the banner IOU( hence the 2) and somehow there was a cohesive linking of the works that wasn’t  as apparent last time. Again the program promised a diverse line-up, from the thematically adventurous to the tightly compositional, the highly musical and lyrical and ridiculously farcical, with many of the same contributing artists as the original, but this time I sense from the performers (even only if imaginary), a tangible understanding of the format and what can be achieved within it.

The two Benjamin’s; Narelle Benjamin and Benjamin Hancock, opened the program with Course. They move as only few can, with exquisite virtuosity, bodies bending backward into the floor from standing, with arches comparable to gothic ecclesiastical architecture, to the curious disembodied effect created by bending forward, with torsos lying on legs and a minimal amount of extraneous movement. The momentary rotation of a leg or the flicker-twitch from a shoulder was mesmerising. Their sequence was performed mostly in unison which subtly heightened both similarities and differences. I recognise the extensive movement vocabulary Nellie has developed over the past decade and appreciate the opportunity to see it performed by its creator. I mustn’t forget that the accompaniment, which was a mixture of both live and pre-recorded music, which emphasised the ambient almost tranquil quality.

Second on the bill was Kristina Chan’s Chrestfallen, a solo offering that ‘began as a purely physical exploration of cause and effect in the body’. Kristina goes on to explain that the result is left to the interpretation of the individual. Well to me this work was evocative of America’s Deep South. I imagined the lazy heat from the dying rays of the sun, which was echoed through dappled lighting effects, appearing like a tail from the simple spot trained on Kristina, who segued into the floor with sleight of hand ease, almost melting. This was a musical treat, as bodies rarely adhere to the music this way, except for the urban disciplines and old time jazz and tap routines. Perhaps this is why I imagined a set inclusive of a large tree in the middle of a tobacco plantation. The movement vocabulary hinted at an influence from working closely with Narelle Benjamin and so was a logical choice to follow the first work. I was left wanting more.

The lights went down and came up to a random, pushing and depositing a shopping trolley sculpture, adorned in plastic bags. It sat centre stage in a pool of muted light, until the rustle of consumer waste belied a body hiding amongst the heap. Say no to plastic was Joshua Thomson’s creation. A mastery of property interactivity that has been nurtured through his working relationship with Gavin Webber through Dance North, Splinter Group and Food Chain Collective, appeared evident. Josh was able to create a myriad of images and a humorous vignette loaded with poignancy. We saw a humble man’s castle turned into a prison. This work is deserving of further development. The ideas are strong and the content accessible, almost universal, to the audience present. The use of video projection gave the work another dimension, it heightened this audience member’s comfortable station in life while being able to contemplate the fate of the ‘other’ in comparison, in the safety and anonymity of the darkened theatre.

Melting Moments was a collaborative montage which progressed with seamless compositional craft. I can only use an analogy of creating the finest decorative lace in describing how it unfolded before my eyes. I didn’t recognise the tongue-in-cheek intention and was comforted by the complimentary juxtaposition of performative styles from both Sue Healey and Martin Del Amo. Perhaps if the piece sat closer to the first work in the program the original intention would’ve been emphasised, but maybe this audience member wouldn’t have appreciated the consummate skill employed in the constant state of progressive transitioning so keenly, if I was preoccupied with getting the joke.

Paea Leach in These things We Hold spoke of the things this performance signified to/for her in short declarative sentences. Her description of her work in the program was in perfect line with her performance. The work unfolded as a series of small statements, of small discoveries (and maybe victories). I hadn’t read the program notes in preparation for the performance but if I had I could’ve more fully appreciated her ability to successfully identify and perform with exact precision what it is she wishes to articulate. This, combined with her unique performative style and vocabulary, makes her compelling to watch and decipher.

Squid Dreams, with Timothy Ohl and Gavin Clarke, was last on the bill. It was a mammoth offering for the senses. A ridiculous commentary on consumer habits ensued with a Big Kev style sold- on-tv infomercial set in a studio kitchen.  Timothy and Gavin invite the audience to chop, we smell (but thankfully don’t taste) and hear, as well as see, the gimmicks employed to lure the unsuspecting mark in. With a clever interactive sound system built into the set, Gavin and Tim create their own musical accompaniment, the highlight of which is the pod of whales consisting of large knives cutting and diving through a sea of light to the sound of self-generated underwater squeals. I eagerly await the next instalment of this work, where we get to experience a little more of the characters, and the creator/performers share the full extent of their amazing exploratory prowess.

I feel extremely lucky to be privy to the variety of in-development and final stage, self-contained works, within the one program. It is a rare opportunity to be engaged on so many levels and the generosity of spirit in which the event is organised is much appreciated. The grass-roots reality is all too easily forgotten in a world that mainly promotes the glamorous end product. 

 Vicki Van Hout