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Image: Cristophe Canato
Every now and again I get to see a work that reminds me why dance was/is an inevitable life choice, the sheer joy and pleasure that is almost incommunicable, that only the intuitive body fully registers.
Reflect, Perth choreographer Sue Peacock’s new work, achieves just that. My body felt a satisfaction as if I were moving on stage with them.
This is not your average work, full of didactic import, angst and over wrought emotion, instead it is brimming with a surrealist whimsy normally associated with the dreaming state.
Not reading the choreographer’s notes beforehand, I assumed reflect meant reflection, the doubling up of images, the result of conscious manipulation for the purpose of self-admiration or critique. I confess I spent the first 10 minutes trying to decipher the exact relationship to the title of the piece, until the music and appreciation of the dancers’ skill made me relax and forget, and immerse myself into the innocuous world they created.
Upon entering the theatre we see a white stage, the back wall, book-ended by black curtains to give the impression of television’s original 4:3 aspect ratio and the floor space covered in white tarkett, in the diaphanous shape of its eerie spill, the dancers always moving within the confines of the white.
This was the first of a series of subtle and successful tactics, to have the dance inhabit an imaginary world; their memories, consolidated by the video images of the dancers, who appear in soft focus, at random, throughout the work. They (the video replicas) appear in different sizes, at different places, sometimes as semi-solid opaque representations and others almost ghosts in a translucent blur. Coupled with strong front lighting, the real-time bodies interact as shadows, with the projection. This threefold world, of projected image, shadow and solid existence, works to skew our depth perception, to accept all three states equally and fluidly as the flexibility of the mind in its dreaming state.
It felt as if I were privy to a gallery, after closing, filled with Rodin sculptures. The dance itself began as a series of small shifts, progressing to couplings, then tableaus before each character and their part in this encounter was revealed, Jenni Large with her mischievous smile and her molten manoeuvres, her ability to bend back on herself like Dali’s liquid clock in The Persistence of Memory. Storm Helmore’s quiet intensity: her gaze was the glue that held the piece together and was highlighted in her duet with Kynan Hughes. Bernadette Lewis’ unbridled energy and attack, a standout in the fast-paced unison section, that literally rocked. We laughed out loud to the playful antics of Tyrone Robinson, hips gyrating while donning a suit jacket wrapped around the waist and vogueing with that same jacket worn on his head like a bulky mantilla. I had only ever seen Kynan Hughes while he was in Sydney Dance Company and it was a pleasant surprise to see the complexity in his characterisation, a highlight, his body shaking in release, the long locks coming free and whipping the air (and his face) with abandon.
This is a work that celebrates dance and life. It is an escapist’s dream come true. It is also the perfect antidote to a predictable night on the couch channel-surfing. Twenty minutes on a train from Central, followed by a short walk through the main street of Parra and you too can experience the infectious athleticism that is Reflect.
– by Vicki Van Hout