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Matthew Day, Cannibal Matthew Day, Cannibal
photo Heidrun Löhr
IT’S A SHAME THERE IS NOT MORE DANCE LIKE THIS: DIRECTLY IMPACTING, ABSTRACT, VISCERAL AND EVISCERATING, ATMOSPHERIC, FLESHY. CANNIBAL IS SO MATTHEW DAY; IT COULD NOT BE ANYONE ELSE’S. BUT IT IS NOT IMPENETRABLE OR SOLIPSISTIC. ON THE CONTRARY, ITS REVELATION OF THE PERFORMER IS A MOTIONAL ACT OF HUMILITY THAT SEEKS TO DISCOVER, NOT DISPLAY DANCE. THIS IS A DANCER I CAN KNOW WELL FOR A LITTLE WHILE AS HE RIDES THE WAVE OF TRANSCENDENT INTENSITY THAT IS CANNIBAL.

The work is Day’s second solo in a trilogy which “explores the body as a site of infinite potential and constant transformation” (program note). He is interested in “extreme physical states” and while the first solo Thousands (RT100) investigated the possibility and detail of stillness, this development explores unceasing and relentless motion.

In a white, white space lit brightly whiter, the dancer also clad in white begins to twitch. Presenting his back, his peachy, twitching buttocks enact a molten and bubbling genesis. It starts so small it is an almost-stillness. Other muscle groups join in with the gluteals, irritating each other, creating a variegated body, but also synchronising a symphony of small movements that fire other movements.

In the asylum whiteness, sound rumbles from behind and underneath, thickly shaking the space, vibrating this place with almost un-nameable, almost disturbing atmospherics: ominous, distant, mighty. My flesh is agitated into an empathetic twitch. Relentless sonic drives become horsey cloppings, rumbles ooze into circular metallic rubs that sit on top of softly thunderous sweeps, making me edgy, slightly nervous.

The powerhouse buttocks have sent the head into a deeper and more frenzied bob that makes it disappear behind its own body to leave the back monstrously rounded: a mountain with arms. The twitches have become sinking jabs and the dancer is joined by three shadows dancing grey on the white wall. They are whispers of the real dancer revealing that this monstrous back has a front, as Day resolutely ignores us, showing us his shell.

The twitch has matured. What was buried deep now becomes asymmetrical: larger, longer, smoother, casting its energies outward. A sequential patterning is revealing itself. It is this softly held crafting, this delicate understanding of emergent design, this love of scored improvisation that will save Cannibal from any hint of self indulgence. Segments originate, develop, alter and morph into sequences that develop their own personality. But all remain connected as if with a pulsing thread, each moment is part of the whole, each moment born of the one that came before, each moment only made possible by the work’s self-generating history. While Cannibal accumulates itself moment by moment, it does not build predictably to crescendo. It waves, weaves and wavers. Sometimes it almost saunters into disappearance.

There is a piquancy in knowing that this performance will never be replicated but Cannibal preserves itself into a meta-history by a knowing of what must be scored, what must be set, to balance and temper the openness. The crystalline patternings of the lights, of the set, of the sound, of the spatial pathway and of the idea allow this performance to fly from solid ground.

Day sweats. This is the moisture of an intensity that never stops, that winds this body through its pathway across and around the asylum. There is never stillness, always the twitch is present as a pulse, a generator, a memory, a trace, a fire, a dance, a rhythm, occasionally a joke. Sweat starts as a shiny bead, it turns into a sheen, a patina of effort, then Day drips and as he heads toward us, his eyes the only truly still part of his being, his face is red with exertion against all the white whiteness and his blood pumped lips are crimson and slack.

I can see a man in effort. I can see dance as an elemental thing, a force of the world, revealing itself.

Matthew Day is not concerned with using the body to represent narrative, yet, as with the best of post modernism, momentary tales and stories nonetheless emerge and fade—not clung to as ultimate significance, but as breathing apertures of fleeting and individuated poetics. The play of repetition and variations turns Day into a simian hanging thing, a dance floor diva, a dying runner convulsing with exhaustion, a delirious floor fucker, a stoned ballerina in fourth and, for a moment, he becomes loose legged jive guy as Elvis begins to spasm and dissolve.

Body to body, Cannibal was a silencing event, smashing word and image, making heat on a balmy Sydney night.


Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, Cannibal, choreographer & performer Matthew Day, sound James Brown, dramaturg Martin Del Amo, lighting: Travis Hodgson, PACT, Sydney, Feb 17-26

RealTime issue #102 April-May 2011 pg. 31

© ; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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