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Sara Black, Kristina Chan, Hiding in Plain Sight Sara Black, Kristina Chan, Hiding in Plain Sight
photo Heidrun Löhr
Hiding in Plain Sight asks for conceptual engagement. Narelle Benjamin draws upon Mircea Eliade who participates in a philosophical tradition that marches toward a holistic return to a self that is fragmented, alienated, empty and without home. Home is more than bricks and mortar; it is being at home with oneself. When this home becomes hearth for others, a re-balancing of the fundamental order of the heart occurs [ordo amoris]. But can we ever be home?

Two cross-legged figures sit facing each other on either side of a doorframe without door. The stage is divided, lasered in half by a white beam, symmetrically left and right, back, front, East, West, dark, light, appearance, reality—all depending upon where one sits in the saddle. The traverse staging sets up an immediate desire to change sides, but only in serving the logic of ‘getting the whole thing at once,’ a suggestion that this is not possible in the condition to which I’m constrained. Window frames without windows hang opposite each other further negating the space with emptiness and filling it with possibility. Doors and windows insist on being opened, closed or left ajar. Without door or window they become mysterious portholes to something else.

Dancers, Kristina Chan and Sara Black nuzzle their necks in a unified nape space, soft, exploratory. Emergent heads cock on a lateral plane in a metronomic beat: 1, 2, 3. This staccato motion posits an underscore of subtle and considered deliberation. We hear voices in a busy market place. Huey Benjamin’s score eclectically rolls out noises of impact: material, poking through a wall of static haze. These weighted sounds curl together then release like the dancers’ spines: tail to head, with the auditory ‘thwack’ of fans: 1, 2, 3. Musically we ratchet from trough to peak in a concertina arrangement cranked between earth and the ethereal.

The identity limit of a form is met vigorously in the dancers’ distal sweeping and wrapping up of limbs: foot pulled to buttock, head arcing to meet points that flip the whole body in transition. Synchronously, they reach with outer tips, taut, then softening, both yielding to the visceral patterns that underlie the beauty of the choreographer’s famed “Nellie’s knots.” This quality of effortless movement is extended through the versatility of the costumes: bodies covered but never lost. Together they deliver other patterns through dancing with fans: the art of not revealing. No longer birds of paradise, they spar, punching and blocking with even touch upon a thin line of separation. Apart, the dancers motor in their spatial halves in idiosyncratic ways. Black sharply accents through torso, arms, fingertips with a bolt of force that propels and slices through the silky contemplative movement that Chan often inhabits—arms behind, tentacles worm with proboscis hands anointing the space. There is an inner/outer dynamic. Sensorial motivations buoy, explode and haunt the choreographic form along its pathway—what lies beneath now in plain sight.

Floating like clouds, Sam James’ black and white floor projections are a cosmological meditation on scale: patterned surfaces magnified, universes miniaturized; a tree grows. The hypnotic motility of these visual symbols gathers all the elements of the dance and brings it almost home.


Performance Space, SCORE: Hiding in Plain Sight, choreographer Narelle Benjamin, performers: Kristina Chan, Sara Black, video Samuel James, music Huey Benjamin, lighting Karen Norris, costumes Justine Shih Pearson, fan designs Victoria Brown; Carriageworks, Sydney 22-30 Aug

RealTime issue #123 Oct-Nov 2014 pg. 22

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

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