Posts Tagged ‘the blokes project

19
Feb
18

The Blokes Project

 

The Blokes Project

Joshua Thomson and Matt Cornell

Flowstate

In association with Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance Brisbane

February 13 – 18 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

Men are meant to be something, they’re meant to be stoic, they’re meant to be independent. Some of these ideals are not actually working for us as a society.

Joshua Thomson

 

Supercell is a contemporary dance festival in Brisbane, now in its second year. It consists of multiple performances, classes/workshops and talks/discussions — mostly one-offs. I cannot claim to review the whole festival, or give an overview of it, as I saw only three performances. What I can say, though, is that I wanted to see many more, and that next year I intend to take a week off so that I can go to as many events as possible.

 

The Blokes Project was one of the few festival shows that ran for multiple performances. On its first night, a summer storm hit Brisbane. The storm wasn’t quite a supercell, but dramatic enough to echo the festival name, and provide a primal environment for co-creators and performers Joshua Thomson and Matt Cornell.

 

 

Flowstate, the new temporary creative space at South Bank, includes a performance space with a roof and no walls. The Blokes Project set was not covered by the roof, and the performance had to stop after 40 minutes instead of the scheduled 60, as rain made the conditions too hazardous for the dancers. (In the audience, we experienced only a bit of fine spray blowing in over us.) The set is a flat-roofed shed-like structure built from scaffolding and panels. (The original set, for earlier performances in other states, was a shipping container, pictured below.)

 

 

 

 

Wearing shorts, jeans, Tshirt/singlet, workboots and Akubras, the dancers began by slouching and moving through various tough ‘masculine’ poses and expressions (sometimes reminiscent of poses in a workwear catalogue). This develops into a slow, controlled duo where these movements and poses are extended into acrobatic lifts performed with a slow nonchalance. Thomson and Cornell support each other, and the movement of each depends on the weight, strength and counterbalancing of the other.

 

The dancers reproduce, amplify and extend the physical bearing, poses, expressions and gestures of working men into dance sequences involving lifting, manoeuvring on networks of ropes, climbing scaffolding, and fighting.

 

The dance sequences are interspersed with audio (including brief discussions of what lies behind male suicide and domestic violence) and video projections (by Claire Robertson) on the front of the ‘shed’, showing, for example, footage from a car driving along a dirt road in the wake of dust from a vehicle ahead, and an older man against an outback landscape and blue sky, accompanied by a monologue about talking to an older man, and expressing feelings.

 

The soundscape (by Tristen Parr) includes sounds like a small plane taxiing, and music dominated by dark strings.

 

After changing into dry clothes, Thomson and Cornell took part in a Q&A with the audience, and spoke engagingly and interestingly about their creative process and their experiences in thinking about what it means to be ‘a man’. As part of their preparation, they worked in ‘speed apprenticeships’ with men doing manual work across northern Australia, as well as drawing on their own blue-collar backgrounds. They are interested in the physical intelligence involved in manual labour — how much force is needed to do particular tasks, for instance. This is likened to the physical intelligence involved in dance — which is, perhaps, developed and discussed by its practitioners in a more conscious way.

 

The work is informal, with moments of humour. It does feel like watching two blokes at work on a project — as well as watching two highly skilled performers.

 

In between sequences, one leans on a door and appears to chat to the other inside the ‘shed’. It is an interesting exploration of ‘blokiness’ — and an examination of masculine behaviour that in everyday life is often not examined.

 

The rain added some unforeseen elements to the performance that the blokes took in their stride.