Friday, March 15, 2013

Generations: Zero Zero and The Recording

Thanks to Zero Zero, the most recent and arguably the finest collaboration between Tony Yap and Yumi Umiumare to date, generations have been on my mind. Umiumare first came to Melbourne with Butoh company Dai Rakuda Kan in 1991 -- I still can’t get the dead goldfish in the clear heels of their shoes out of my head -- and moved here not long after. So we’ve been watching her for more than 20 years. Ditto Tony Yap, though he first came to prominence in Renato Cuocolo’s theatre company IRAA. I vividly remember his androgynous long-haired Medea in Cuocolo’s ‘Vision of the Void’ adaptation. I reckon that was also 1991. (Yap had been in some short dance works by Lynne Santos in 1989 and 1990 as well.)

Ignoring this history -- this physical ballast -- is difficult. And, perhaps, pointless. These collaborations between Yap and Umiumare utilise time. The history of the bodies involved in the performance is integral to the performance. I’m not sure if that’s a cultural thing, if it’s just specific to these particular bodies, or if it’s just these individual projects.

The paradox is that these bodies -- bodies that I’ve been watching for literally decades -- seem to have defied time. They haven’t thickened or visibly aged whatsoever. They’re amazingly lithe, more muscular and toned than ever. In the unairconditioned lower space at fortyfivedownstairs on a hot February Sunday afternoon, sweat ran down Tony Yap’s back in silvery rivulets. The trails caught the light like glycerine tears on an actor’s face.

Watching Sandra Parker’s The Recording at Dancehouse, yesterday evening, it suddenly became clear that Fiona Cameron has swapped generations since last I saw her perform. She’s not quite ‘elder statesman’ or anything like that. Nor is she on the back nine, in golfing terms. But she has a new found gravity, if that’s the word. Her fingers and hands are as captivating as her dark expressions.

As an aside... it’s easy enough to invest complete stillness with weight. Likewise, it’s easy to make a dramatic thrust or a big gesture look weighty. But tiny moves, thrumming fingertips or delicate lines are far harder. The opening moments of The Recording are a fine (and rare) example of investing small moves with weight.

Perhaps even more shockingly, to me, Phoebe Robinson is also at one of those generational gear change moments. Weirdly enough, in writing about one of Robinson’s shows Only Leone five years ago, I mused that Robinson might benefit from some mentoring by Sandy Parker. It won’t be long before Robinson is doing the mentoring. (Lucky youngies.)

Speaking of generations, the other performer in The Recording is Trevor Patrick who made his pro debut a couple of years before I started reviewing. So, for me, he has always been there. Like an older brother. There’s a remarkable moment in this show in which Patrick face-syncs his performance with a pre-recorded video, shot in tight close-up. Now, the camera is supposed to add ten pounds, but not with the lean and hungry Patrick. Weirdly, it seems to add ten years to his face. The screen image is slightly overexposed and exaggerates the lines in his face. The video is time-stamped 1982, I think. It’s as if Patrick is playing his father.

For me, with all of the accreted knowledge of these performers (Sandra Parker and her collaborators Rhian Hinkley and Jennifer Hector included) ideas fired through my head from go to whoa. But I can’t imagine what it meant, if anything, to the young audience members around me. I can’t imagine how they would read it or, indeed, if they would find anything to read in it at all.

Zero Zero. Created and performed by Tony Yap and Yumi Umiumare. Media, sound and lighting by co-creator Matthew Gingold. Additional design and production realisation by Paula van Beek. At fortyfivedownstairs, February 24.

The Recording. Directed and choreographed by Sandra Parker. Projections by Rhian Hinkley. Music by Steven Heather. Lighting by Jennifer Hector. Performed by Fiona Cameron, Trevor Patrick and Phoebe Robinson. Part of Dance Massive. At Dancehouse, North Carlton, March 13-16. About an hour.

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