Vicki Van Hout
1st – 4th August 2012
Reviewed by Alys Gwillim
Indigenous culture is depicted in a delightfully fresh offering of Briwyant from Vicki Van Hout student of NAISDA (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Skills Development). Choreographed in collaboration with fellow performers Henrietta Baird, Raghav Handa, Rosealee Pearson, Beau Dean Smith and Melinda Tyquin, Van Hout combined contemporary dance with an indigenous flair, with some very comedic narration and lip syncing as well as intriguing use of video and lighting.
Performed in the Brisbane Powerhouse, Briwyant’s stage setting was peculiar and strangely beautiful. A river was made out of packs of cards standing up on angles, swirling across the front quarter of the stage (a lovely little distraction while waiting for the performance to begin). The river played an integral of the first story, of a duck and goanna falling in love but fighting about the sides of the river. As that tale fell by the way side, the river became a dancing area also. A sheer hanging arm created the illusion of a camp site and screens were used to frame the stage, becoming veils for full body shadow puppetry and displays for pre – recorded film clips which aided in the audience’s understanding of the live performance.
It certainly couldn’t be said that Van Hout didn’t do her homework before venturing in this piece! Briwyant has a broad spectrum of inspiration. In a lecture facilitated by Dr Aaron Corn and Dr Joe Gumbulla caused Van Hout’s realisation of the relationship between indigenous dance, story and painting. Allegedly Gumbulla demonstrated the bend in knees and elbows (dance movement) and its correlation to the diamond shape in a painting. Use of elbows and knees was present in the choreography, and a motif was created.
The choreography ticked all the boxes for me; it was compelling, it was dynamic, it incorporated subtle body percussion. Most of all, it was not your everyday contemporary piece that you see from well-known Australian contemporary dance companies and that for me was a breath of fresh air. The connection to what the performers delivered was evident in every idiosyncratic movement. The idiosyncrasy was another factor I adored, present in the animalistic nature of the movement and some of the freeze frames displayed.
In saying that, what I find with Contemporary dance companies, when a dance displays different choreography it is semi-similar, which makes it easier on the eye. Briwyant’s moments of difference, was so juxtaposing that you didn’t know where to look. As an audience member, you learn early on that if you miss one aspect you won’t pick up on the rest. And that’s definitely not something you want to do! The videos, although very interesting and a clever way to portray the message/story, unfortunately for me became distracting, I’m not sure whether that was because it was the video itself or because the brightness/tone of the shots disrupted the beautiful soft hue that was illuminating the stage.
Briwyant’s content, particularly with the narration and lip syncing moments was very ‘in house’. Unfortunately being a London born Lady I didn’t necessarily pick up on the humour or significance of some instances, particularly the narration or lip syncing. In saying that, I knew it was funny so I was laughing without knowing why (that’s either a good sign, or an indication that I’m slightly mental).
All in all, Briwyant was a beautiful dance/theatre piece. It acknowledged the history of the Indigenous community, the urban environment and included technology, giving a nod to the present and future. It was an innovative portrayal of the Indigenous community and was thoroughly enjoyable.