Dude dance: Adapting for Distortion & Haptic by Hiroaki Umeda
Dude dance, or boy-choreography. The foyer discussion turned into an animated bitch fight about whether once we conclude that all men tend toward autism (as Simon Baron-Cohen argues, and so did some foyer men), this excuses male choreographers from engaging with emotion.
Adapting for Distortion (photograph by Alex)
I expected a work in the general category of Mortal Engine, and thought it was even closer to it than just generally close. All possible interpretations of Adapting for Distortion as metaphors for how contemporary technology eats people are as possible as they are simplistic: how innovative and progressive to produce the very object of purported critique (?!).
Haptic (photograph: Bertrand Baudry)
It was not the quality of the execution, but the thinness of it, that put off the female part of the foyer.
During the first part of A for D, I remember thinking: ‘well, I’m sure there are complex mathematical concepts behind the realisation of this work, but I don’t care because it’s just so damn pretty’. During the second half, I was thinking: ‘well, I don’t care how good-looking this light-and-sound machine is, there is no soul here’. Pay attention: not ‘heart’. It was not emotion that was missing, it was depth.
Dude Dance is technological, not emotional, by default. Hence Simon B-C: it’s Asperger’s choreography. I’ve seen in the work of other exponents of Dude Dance attempts to address this lack by tacking sentiment onto it (see Mortal Engine for the most crystalline example), and the whole work collapsing into a heap, now guilty both of heartlessness and sentimentality. However, the most interesting (to me) proponent of Dude Dance, Wayne McGregor, puts together works that are as emotionally illiterate as they are in every sense sublime; if anything, the other-worldliness of McGregor’s concepts universalises his dances into something like philosophy on slender legs.
I am in no doubt that Hiroaki Umeda aspires to making philosophy on slender legs too; alas, his work is still closer to a video game.
Hiroaki Umeda in Haptic (photograph: Shin Yamagata)
Parenthesis: I loved Haptic up until the moment another foyer guy insisted that for him it had all the qualities of early Super Mario. Until that point, Haptic was a colourful dance macaron of sorts: much less brutal than A for D, its combinations of complementary colours and a moving man creating intensely hallucionatory effects in one’s mind. A pink man dancing behind the black man; that sort of thing. Until the Super Mario point, I was deeply taken with the experience and, to the extent to which the judgement of a girl can override a boy’s keen-eyed identification with Umeda’s preoccupations, I would argue it is a subtle, beautiful and rich work.
But I came out feeling an uncanny urge to watch some Bill Viola. Inappropriate and unfair as this may be, Umeda’s diptych seemed to have tickled just the right part of me. By putting on a hi-tech binge of sub-emotional effect, which buzzes but also fizzes away, it seems to provoke a need for a hi-tech sub-emotional experience that hits you in the gut instead. It was as if we came out on a dubious, nervous high, and needed to validate it with a satisfying come-down.
cross-posted at Guerrilla Semiotics
Adapting for Distortion and Haptic. Choreographed and performed by Hiroaki Umeda. Sound and lighting by S20 with Bertrand Baudry (Adapting for Distortion) and Hervé Villechenoux (Haptic). Melbourne Festival. Merlyn Theatre, Thursday October 14. Season ends Sunday October 17.