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Gareth Hart, Ellipsis Gareth Hart, Ellipsis
photo Sarah Walker
ENTERING A SMALL DARK ROOM IN ARTS HOUSE, WE ARE OFFERED A SMALL CUP OF GREEN TEA AND HANDED WIRELESS HEADPHONES. THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME I’VE WORN HEADPHONES AT A PERFORMANCE; THEY SEEM TO BE AS UBIQUITOUS AS 3D GLASSES AT CINEMAS. IN ELLIPSIS WE SEE HOW THEY CREATE AN INTIMATE SPACE BETWEEN VIEWER AND THE PERFORMER.

Microphones pick up the most minute details of Gareth Hart’s solo dance—his foot scraping across the floor or, at the end of his performance, a long moment when he catches his breath before speaking. The headphones create aural cocoons and fill them with gentle compositions and ambient noise, such as the clatter and laughter from another show downstairs.

Fine red threads are woven and suspended from a frame not dissimilar to hospital curtain rails. Apart from that detail, the set is minimal and dimly lit. Hart could be in a cage, the red web containing his movements as he explores the language of his body and the movements it prefers. He explores these quirks in the way a musician works with the unique timbre of a violin. Playing on his physical appearance—his longish hair almost like a rooster’s comb—Hart moves like a bird, or man as bird. With a bent back he paws the ground with his bare feet and flicks his wrists as he turns on his foot and slides back from the red gossamer of his confines. We wonder if he is trapped—though he seems resigned to it—like a caged bird still fluttering as far as it can. His lack of expression and eye contact hint at sideshow voyeurism; the darkness and our containing headsets add to the feeling of illicitness.

Gareth Hart, Ellipsis Gareth Hart, Ellipsis
photo Sarah Walker
In the second half of the performance fans gently blow the red threads creating a chance for interaction. Weaving in and out and exploring the filaments, Hart’s movements are at times robotic, then fast and frantic with rigid arms. These moments are then reined in with long smooth strides and control again. A loud chortle from a comedy show downstairs is jumped on—Hart laughs in return. In that instance, the performance bursts beyond the small room, the dancer’s web and our headsets.

Hart seems to point to the dichotomy in dance—that it has the propensity for showing truth but is open-ended. Some years ago he left theatre for dance and choreography; in a YouTube video he talks about the falsity he felt in playing characters. The deliberate eschewal of facial expression allows Hart’s body to flesh out veracity and he proves himself to be an adept storyteller. Certainly the awkward bending of his back with knees jutting forward is not frequently seen in dance. He conveys pathos through repetition and more anxious movements show a wariness of the boundaries of the installation. The audience is left with an understanding of Hart’s strings, how his body is strung to play, to dance—its physical truths and limits.

Gareth Hart, Ellipsis Gareth Hart, Ellipsis
photo Sarah Walker
In a monologue at the show’s conclusion that teases out some of the threads of the performance, Gareth Hart tells us that the red lights of our headphones look to him like eyes in the dark. Then, cutting the tension and breaking the spell, he wryly suggests that we’re mulling over the show and thinking, “It’s all a little weird.”


2012 Melbourne Fringe Festival, Ellipsis, choreographer, performer Gareth Hart, composers E Willoughby, W Lynch, A van Schothorst; Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, Oct 9-13

This article originally appeared as part of RT's online e-dition Nov 6

RealTime issue #112 Dec-Jan 2012 pg. 27

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

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