Posts Tagged ‘kyle page

24
Sep
18

DUST

 

Dust

Dancenorth & Liminal Spaces

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

September 19 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Upon birth, we arrive into a world in which those who precede us determine everything.

 

From this lottery of birth we inherit the architecture of both restriction and opportunity in countless manifestations. Structures, barriers and borders pre-exist, and past tense illuminates both our present and future thinking…

 

Dancenorth

 

Dancenorth’s work Dust premiered at this year’s Brisbane Festival. It is inspired by weighty and solemn concepts, outlined by directors/choreographers Kyle Page (Dancenorth’s Artistic Director) and Amber Haines (Associate Artistic Director) in their program notes.

 

Page and Haines are married and have a baby son, whose birth last year led them to contemplate ‘the architecture of inheritance’, and to think about the present, past and future worlds, and how we shape these worlds and they shape us.

 

In the post-performance Q&A on opening night, Page referred to the set for Dust, designed by Liminal Studio, as ‘another performer’. It dominates this work. At first, a large, wedge-shaped wall looms over the performers. Angled across the stage, it separates one dancer (Ashley McLellan) from the six others (Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson and Jack Ziesing). The themes of barriers, restrictions, insiders/outsiders and inclusion/exclusion continue throughout the work.

 

The power of the soundscape matches that of the set. Created by composer/sound designer Alisdair Macindoe and Canadian composer/musician Jessica Moss, it surges, booms and pounds, ebbing to quieter moments with sounds like bells, harmonic chanting, droning, and distorted voices calling.

 

Threading their way among the recorded electronic sounds are echoes of Middle Eastern and Eastern European music. Moss plays the violin live during the show, electronically modifying the sound of her instrument.

 

Early on, the dancers dismantle the wall into its constituent box-like blocks. As the work progresses, they move the boxes into various configurations: a ramp, a pile of rocks, a low wall around the stage perimeter, and parallel rows of columns.

 

The action continues with duos and solos while this happens, but shifting the boxes takes up much of the dancers’ time and effort. (The dancer representative at the Q&A, Felix Sampson, confirmed the impression that the blocks are heavy.)

 

 

Once the arrangements of blocks are in place, striking images are created by the dancers moving and posing on and round them. A group moves and stands on a ramp, while a lone man creeps alongside. A woman stands and lifts her arm, like a priest or an ancient oracle. A group of dancers bow and abase themselves to a pile of blocks; one woman walks slowly among them and they follow her.

 

It is as if we are witnessing some ancient ritual in a sacred space. This effect is accentuated by the configuration of the Powerhouse Theatre, with the audience in tiers of seats rising above the stage, as in an Ancient Greek theatre.

 

The dancers perform heroically, and one can only wonder at their energy. The quality of movement is athletic and grounded, fluid at times and jerky and robotic at others. McLellan in particular impresses with her intensity, strength and fluidity.

 

The pattern of the movement is full of circles: for example, using the impetus of whirling around in lifts, or rotating on the spot like a dervish, or running in circles, and people circling each other. The group of dancers sometimes huddle in a circle, moving in close action and reaction to each other, like a flock of birds. They also undulate in slow motion, like a group of sea creatures. There is a great deal of floor work.

 

 

The lighting (Niklas Pajanti) is subtle, often quite dim, with simple minimal colours that correspond well with the cosmic soundscape and the monumental set – such as gold, and pink strengthening to red. These are the only touches of colour other than shades of grey (for the backdrop, the wall, and the costumes).

 

The costumes (Harriet Oxley) are lovely. In contrast to the dominating set and the sound, and more aligned with the mood of the lighting, they are delicate and almost transparent. Of fine, pale, lightly patterned fabric, the combinations of tunics, wide pants, long skirts, and sleeveless tops are reminiscent of Ancient Greek or Roman draperies.

 

The whole creative team was represented on the 9-strong panel for the Q&A (facilitated by Bradley Chatfield, formerly with Sydney Dance Company, and more recently with Dancenorth and the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts). All were very passionate about their particular discipline and about the collaborative process of creating Dust.

 

The different creative elements in this work all make a powerful impression. However, for me they did not gel as a whole: rather, they seemed to be struggling for dominance, a struggle won by the set. At around 70 minutes, the work is not over-long, but is repetitious in parts.

 

In the current drought, the title Dust might first suggest clouds of windblown particles of soil. However, on reflection, the biblical idea that we are all made of dust seems more relevant: ‘… out of [the ground] wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Genesis 3:19).

01
Sep
15

In Two Minds

 

In Two Minds

Dancenorth

Brisbane Powerhouse Powerhouse Theatre

August 26 to 27 2015

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Driven by inimitable natural forms, the performers interact like flocking birds, schools of fish and clouds in the wind.

 

A Pre-emptive Requiem for Mother Nature (program notes)

 

 

BPH_In_Two_Minds_6_2015-1178x663

 

… the only thing that separates us is our skin.

 

Syncing Feeling (program notes)

 

 

Synchronisation, mirroring, and empathy are core themes running through both of the new works in Dancenorth’s double bill In Two Minds.

 

 

BPH_In_Two_Minds_7_2015-1178x663

 

First is A Pre-emptive Requiem for Mother Nature, by Alisdair Macindoe in collaboration with the dancers (Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, and Ashley Mclellan). Melbourne-based Macindoe is a multi-talented artist: dancer, composer, choreographer and, for this work, projection designer and costume designer.

 

To slow, dirge-like music by Henryk Górecki, the dancers appear in a tight group, moving close together in slow motion, with frequent pauses, which gives the viewer a feeling of suspension, almost like floating. The duration of movement between the pauses varies. When it is shorter, the effect is of watching time-lapse film.

 

As the music swells and fades, the dancers move like a school of fish, in unison, with pauses and sudden changes of direction. They also sway, like kelp undulating in the sea.

 

In later sequences, they appear like a flock of birds, making fleeting wing shapes with their arms, and joining their hands in a point like beaks. At the end, they are rolling and slow-motion tumbling on the floor – which I took to represent the motion of clouds mentioned in the program notes.

 

The feeling projected by the dancers is of absorption and preoccupation with the creatures and environment whose essence is being expressed.

 

The movement varies from slow motion, to very fast small jerky movements and jumps, counterpointing the slower waves of the music. It appears loose and relaxed, but is also very precise and controlled.

 

How do the dancers manage to match their movements so completely and move so precisely when they are so close together? This is the same question people ask about schools of fish and flocks of birds.

 

intwominds_dancenorth

 

The dancers wear simple, androgynous pants and tops in light, neutral colours. Film of the dancers is projected on a transparent screen in front of them, overlaid at different angles from the performers on stage.

 

The projections later change to images like magnified particles drifting in water, and kaleidoscopic or fractal images like bees in a hive. The projections enrich the visual impact of the work, and magnify its effect: although there are only four dancers, the effect is of watching a much larger group.

 

The cosmic scale of Górecki’s music sweeps over this work, amplifying its poignancy and beauty.

 

Syncing Feeling by Amber Haines (Rehearsal Director/Artistic Assistant) and Kyle Page (Artistic Director of the company) explores the many different possibilities in a duet.

 

The dancers mirror each other, close together but without touching; Haines stands with one side of her body shuddering and twitching as if suffering electric shocks, and Page clasps her to stop it; they lie on the floor, with arms and legs waving like tentacles; they do many fast jumps and turns; they run; and there are some virtuosic lifts that fit in so completely with the rapid continuous flow that you almost wonder if they happened.

 

intwominds

 

In one amusing sequence, the only sound is their breath sucking in and the whoosh as their mouths attach like suckers to various parts of the other’s body. They also manipulate a large piece of dark fabric, disappearing underneath it to form monstrous shapes. In solos, Haines runs, shudders, and moves as if swimming on the floor, while Page contorts his arms impossibly around his head and upper body.

 

The movement is soft, boneless and very fluid. There is virtuosity, but this is not saying ‘look at me’ – it grows out of the other movement, like a wave building in the sea. Similarly organic and understated, the costumes are simple off-white pants and tops (designed by Fiona Todd-Logos) that don’t attract attention.

 

The mood and movement correspond to a sound track by Alisdair Macindoe that ranges through many different dimensions: reverberating and dirge-like to start with; high-pitched whistling; sparking, buzzing noises, and thudding like heartbeats; bell chimes; and loud, grinding booms.

 

intwominds_dancenorth_aroundyou

 

In their program notes, Haines and Page refer to theories of mind, metacognition, and mirror neurons that drove the creation of Syncing Feeling and its aim to illuminate human cognitive processes, such as empathy, understanding others’ actions and feelings, and learning by imitation.

 

Metacognition is an awareness of our own knowledge, the processes involved in learning, and how to control these processes. Mirror neurons are brain cells that are active both when we perform a physical act, and when we watch someone else perform that act. They have been used to explain why we identify with and experience other people’s actions when we watch them.

 

For instance, when we watch dance, it is believed that we ‘experience’ the movement ourselves almost as if we were doing it. This feeling has been described as ‘kinesthetic empathy’, a term and concept developed well before the theory of mirror neurons. So in Syncing Feeling, we watch two dancers mirror each other and respond to each other, and we unconsciously mirror them.

 

Dancenorth’s In Two Minds embodies a freshness and humanity, a purity of movement, and a depth of thought that are uplifting and inspiring.

 

Lucky Townsville, to have Dancenorth based there. I hope the company can visit Brisbane more often.