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sydney festival


into other worlds

martin del amo on kathryn dunn’s new solos


Kathryn Dunn Kathryn Dunn
photo Prudence Upton
INTO, TWO SOLOS COMMISSIONED AND DANCED BY KATHRYN DUNN, OPENS WITH BELONGING, CHOREOGRAPHED BY FRANCES RINGS, BEST KNOWN FOR HER WORK WITH BANGARRA DANCE THEATRE. EXPLORING THE INNATE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN THE BODY AND NATURE, BELONGING IS A QUIETLY INSISTENT EVOCATION OF A WOMAN’S LIFE CYCLE.

Initially crouching in a foetal position, Dunn sets out on what appears to be a journey through imaginary landscapes. Her slender, long-limbed body appears to be driven by an invisible force that takes her across the stage on a winding pathway, often in curves of varying diameters, sometimes spinning on the spot. The flow of movement is constant. The great fluidity that marks large sections of the work is occasionally contrasted by explosions of sharp angularity. Set to a haunting score by David Page with singing by Ningali Lawford-Wolf, Dunn’s journey ends with the inevitable—complete stillness. She lies on the ground, again foetally, the cycle completed. The invisible force driving her has loosened its grip, the body has been laid to rest.

After Dunn’s focused almost trance-like performance in Belonging, she reveals another facet of her performative range in Figment. Choreographed by Narelle Benjamin, it has been created in response to the experience of Benjamin’s sister, a longtime sufferer from schizophrenia.

To capture the sensations of someone with a disjointed, fractured sense of reality, Benjamin punctures her trademark yoga-based movement language with bouts of staccato movement, interlaced with moments of stillness. Benjamin’s choreography with its many changes of direction, speed and levels, as well as Dunn’s considerable acting ability, creates a disturbing portrait of someone frantically, at times desperately, battling their demons.

Figment is a highly integrated creation with Benjamin’s trusted key collaborators at their multi-layering best. Huey Benjamin’s nuanced musical score incorporates sounds of footsteps, clunking crockery and white noise, like someone tuning into many radio stations in quick succession. These sonic cut-ups are complemented by Sam James’ striking video images featuring musical scores, TV static and water streaming from a shower head. The graphs of brainwave activity are especially poignant. Zig-zagging across the gauze scrim that divides the stage from the audience, they evoke oscillating barbed wire fences, behind which the woman portrayed by Dunn is held captive to her delusions and hallucinations. We are shut out, with no access to her world—damned to be mere witnesses to the figments of imagination that torture her.

Kathryn Dunn has danced with various Australian companies including Sydney Dance Company, Chunky Move and Bangarra Dance Theatre. In recent years, she has been based in London and New York. Into offered the perfect opportunity for this highly skilled and charismatic dancer to reintroduce herself to Australian dance auudiences.


Into, performer Kathryn Dunn, Belonging, choreography Francis Rings, composer David Page, costume/design Jacob Nash; Figment, choreography Narelle Benjamin, composer Huey Benjamin, video/design Sam James, lighting Glenn Hughes; Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, Jan 8-12, The Studio, Sydney Opera House, Jan 15–20

RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008 pg. 15

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

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