Dance Massive: random rants #1
Black Project 2. Rampant, scintillating, precise, alien. You know, just Antony Hamilton at his awesome best. I would have very happily shelled out to see it again. Had I world enough and time.
Byron Perry, Stephanie Lake and Alisdair Macindoe
Conversation Piece. An insanely likable bit of theatre with equally likable dance. Half of this particular cast is new to the piece, and the ‘outs’ include Alison Bell and Harriet Richie... who are about as close to irreplaceable as you’re gonna get in any show. So kudos to Lucy Guerin for lining up the wonderfully versatile Katherine Tonkin and Stephanie Lake as their replacements.
Byron Perry is the other ‘in’, for Rennie McDougall, so there’s a heap of on-stage charisma to go round. (And I feel sick not devoting a few hundred words to Megan Holloway’s hair, Matthew Whittet’s pure and applied geekiness and Alisdair Macindoe’s conversation with himself!)
Southern Exposure, another miraculous instalment of Russell Dumas’s dance for the time being. One steps into a Dumas work, like a river. It feels like a vast loop. Not repeated, exactly, more curved. Like space and time. If one travels far enough in one direction, the starting point will be reached again. It’s a loop in the same way that an eco system is looped. Water flowing, evaporating, raining down again, flowing again.
This time around, I noticed the restfulness (if that’s the word) of the movement. The exertion is almost completely hidden. Minimised, certainly. It’s stealthy. This style of dance is as different to everything else that passes as contemporary as a fretless instrument is to a fretted one. It has the accuracy of ‘digital’ and the artistry of ‘analogue’. It’s performed with freshly scrubbed feet on freshly polished floorboards in a naturally-lit space. The only external sound comes from the dull roar of overhead fans. The audience silence is entirely unselfconscious.
Tonight (that’s Tuesday night, when I saw both Conversation Piece and Southern Exposure) perfection is on my mind, thanks to Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, guest leads in the Australian Ballet’s Don Quixote on Monday evening. Not because they were perfect, no. But because a couple of reviews called them perfect which seems, rather, to be missing the point.
Natalia Osipova as Kitri in Don Quixote (Photograph: Jeff Busby)
They did to the Australian Ballet what the Australian Ballet has been doing to the rest of the world for a great proportion of the last fifty years. Vasiliev and Osipova shamed us with their passion and daring. They’re remarkable because of their willingness to break line and lose centre in pursuit of something more valuable than plastic perfection. (And on this occasion I use ‘plastic’ in its modern synthetic sense rather than its original pliable/malleable sense.)
I’m hoping that David McAllister’s choice of guests for the company’s signature ballet (this is the one Nureyev created on the national company and which has been performed 420-odd times) is intended to show the young dancers of the company that technical perfection is not an end point but, rather, a starting point.
Which brings me back to Russell Dumas. The ‘perfection’ in his work has a certain joyfulness, I think. It’s hard won -- there’s no doubt about that -- and comes from grueling repetition which turns an analogue movement into something exactly repeatable. But it would be as wrong to call it ‘painstaking’ as it would be to call a religious practice painstaking. It is, rather, a kind of worship.
Though I’m impressed by it -- awed by it -- I don’t really see the point of hiding the exertion. It’s reminiscent of the footbinding excesses of classical ballet. (Sorry, Russell, if I’ve just given you apoplexy!) I live for the day that I see some feat on the ballet stage, some impossible lift or leap, and hear the grunt of exertion like a noisy tennis player. Yeah, yeah, it’ll be the beginning of the end. But it’ll make me smile inside.
Don’t miss the return season of Jo Lloyd’s Future Perfect. I saw this at “Tirade’s Hall” the year before last and rated it the highlight of the year in Dance Australia’s 2011 Critics’ Survey. It opens tonight at the Meat Market.
dance for the time being (Southern Exposure) by Russell Dumas. Performed by Linda Sastradipradja, Jonathan Sinatra, Nicole Jenvey, Rachel Doust, David Huggins, Sarah Cartwright, Eric Fon and Molly McMenamin. Presented by Dance Exchange. At Dancehouse, North Carlton, March 19-21. Around fifty minutes.
Conversation Piece. Choreographed and directed by Lucy Guerin. Set and costume design by Robert Cousins. Lighting design by Damien Cooper. Sound design and composition by Robin Fox. Performed by Megan Holloway, Stephanie Lake, Alisdair Macindoe, Byron Perry, Katherine Tonkin and Matthew Whittet. Presented by Arts House, Belvoir and Lucy Guerin Inc. At Arts House, Meat Market, March 19-24. Seventy minutes.
Black Project 2 by Antony Hamilton. Set construction and production management by Matthew Scott, Megafun. Costume design by Paula Levis. Sound design by Alisdair Macindoe. Video design by Kit Webster. Performed by James Batchelor, Jake Kuzma, Talitha Maslin, Jessie Oshodi, Marnie Palomares and Jess Wong. Presented by Arts House and Antony Hamilton Projects. At Arts House, Meat Market, March 12-16.