Assemblies for One Body
Metro Arts & Rhiannon Newton
February 25 to March 7 2015
Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway
Assemblies for One Body is about the live act of dancing, and the tension between this live-ness, repetition and choreography.
Rhiannon Newton, Choreographer/Performer
Assemblies for One Body was an intense experience on its first hot and humid night. About 30 of us sat in one row of chairs around the edge of the Basement at Metro Arts – a cellar-like room with plain wooden floor and raw brick walls. On the wall opposite the entrance, sound artist Kynan Tan sat at a computer, with eight subwoofers on the floor in front of him, like conical bowls.
Choreographer/Performer Rhiannon Newton was in the room, warming up. She stripped down to simple black shorts and singlet, and started performing a movement sequence. The movement style was outwardly relaxed, earthy, with no pointed feet. The apparent softness and ease was deceptive –
Newton’s energy and stamina were impressive, as she repeated the sequence over and over.
Starting in one corner of the room, she lifted her right leg, and then stepped, jumped and circled to the furthest corner from the starting point, stopping and raising her arm. At a loud electronic click or bang, she started the sequence again.
The sound thrummed and reverberated, swelling in intensity (but never to a painful point) and dying away again to more of a low hum. At times the conical sides of the speakers were visibly throbbing. I wondered if they would start to move around the floor, but this didn’t happen.
The intervals between the punctuating click grew shorter and the steps smaller and less distinct, and then the intervals lengthened again. Occasionally Newton smiled ruefully at the click signalling the restart of the sequence. The sequence also changed, along with the starting position. With the new movement came a resurgence of energy, which also then waned.
On several occasions, the lights (which were full on in the room most of the time) dimmed and blacked out – giving Newton, and the audience, some respite before the next round of repetition. Twice before the final blackout, the audience clapped as this happened, perhaps thinking that the performance had finished, or perhaps in tribute to Newton’s stamina.
The performance lasted around 30 minutes. As it went on, I started to wonder how Newton could keep going. Was she going to dance until she dropped? Was she forcing the audience to intervene when we couldn’t bear to see how exhausted she was? Thankfully, she stopped before this point.
After the continual movement, the winding down and the increasing tiredness and dishevelment of the dancer, the end was a natural finish. The trajectory of the performance was a building and maintaining of energy, and then an inevitable winding down.
In her program notes, Newton says she has a particular interest in repetition. Repetition can be used to induce a trance-like state. Newton’s performance echoed ritual dance to reach an altered state of consciousness (with the cave-like setting adding to the effect).
But the variation in movement and pace, and the formless throbbing of the speakers, created a tension that worked against the audience going into a trance. At the finish, the applause was loud and sustained.
Book for the show here.
*Workshop registrations close at 4.30pm, Friday 27 February. A $1.65 booking fee applies to each workshop registration. To discuss workshop options please contact reception at Metro Arts on 07 3002 7100. Ticket price includes one complimentary ticket to the performance Assemblies For One Body