Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts
September 2 to 5 2015
Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway
Desirelines is as much about the pathways in life as it is the movement in the performers’ bodies.
Gareth Belling, choreographer
The term ‘desire lines’ in everyday life refers to those informal paths that people make by striking out from a set route, like a footpath, and wearing a dirt track across an area such as a lawn. Metaphorically, they can represent freedom from convention, or the ability to create an alternative way.
In this new work by Collusion, lines, tracks, restrictions, and pathways, both conventional and alternative, are represented in the design, in musical notation, and in the groupings of the dancers and musicians in different combinations. For instance, there is movement on restrictive trackways, freer movement away in other directions, and music written on lines – which may seem restrictive, but is also the foundation for creative expression.
Choreographer Gareth Belling says in the program notes that he is exploring concrete, well-established life pathways, and pathways that people develop for themselves, and he mixes and matches the four dancers in different combinations to acknowledge all relationships equally, regardless of gender or sexuality.
The musicians of Collusion, and the visual design by Pete Foley are the stars of this show.
The animated music notation is a bewitching element of the design, with white staves and notes projected onto the black floor for the musicians to read. The staves are arranged in many different ways: in three blocks in front of the three musicians; in a circle; in a chevron; and in shifting diagonal patterns. I had never realised that music notation could look so beautiful.
The musicians – Benjamin Greaves (violinist and Co-Director of Collusion), Danielle Bentley (cellist) and Diana Tolmie (clarinettist) – all shine, playing specially commissioned compositions by Australian Susan Hawkins, as well as existing ones by Peter Sculthorpe and Jacques Ibert.
Highlights were the Sculthorpe violin solo Irkanda I and Ibert’s cello solo Ghirlazana (elegy), both Greaves and Bentley producing beautiful sound, with shimmering tremolo and bird-like harmonics in the Sculthorpe piece.
The cello solo married particularly well with the design, Bentley circling the stage on a small moving platform as the stave and notes also circle around her, like moving lines of stars on the floor.
Dancers Melissa Tattam and Nathan Scicluna (both formerly with the Queensland Ballet) are long-limbed and elegant with strongly classical placing, while Amelia Stokes and Michael Smith have a more earthy, contemporary style. The movement phrases often begin with very classical positions and steps, which then deform and break out into a more plastic and grounded flow of movement.
Frequently assembling and dismantling stainless steel tracks across and around the stage, the dancers appear subservient to the musicians, who stand or sit on small moving platforms on the tracks, with the dancers unobtrusively pushing them around.
Although some manipulation of the sections of track was integrated into the dancers’ movement, giving the impression that they were grappling with or submitting to restrictions or repressions, its frequency made it an obtrusive element that took the focus away from the movement and the music.
Leigh Buchanan has designed stylish costumes for the musicians and for the dancers in varying combinations of black, grey and white, with touches of deep red glitter.
There is such a lot happening at once in this work, with the musicians, the animations and the dancers (both dancing, and track-building). I found that my attention focused on the musicians and the animations.
In a way this is a nice reversal – that the dancers accompany the musicians, rather than the musicians accompanying the dancers and being almost invisible. In a chamber ballet, though, I feel that the dance element needs to be more strongly integrated into the whole.