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Tim Harvey, Luke George, Jo Lloyd,  Apparenty that’s what happened Tim Harvey, Luke George, Jo Lloyd, Apparenty that’s what happened
photo Rohan Young
THE TITLE, GIRLS ON BOYS, EVOKES THAT NOTION THAT CHOREOGRAPHERS MAKE WORK ‘ON’ DANCERS. IT’S A RELIC OF THE BALLETIC IDEA THAT (MALE) CHOREOGRAPHERS MAKE WORK ON (FEMALE) DANCERS. THE CHOREOGRAPHER-DANCER DUO PARALLELS OTHER BINARIES, MIND-MATTER, NATURE-NURTURE, MALE-FEMALE. THE GENDERED REVERSAL—GIRLS ON BOYS— NEVERTHELESS RETAINS THE IDEA THAT CHOREOGRAPHY IS SOMETHING THAT IS APPLIED TO THE DANCER, HERE, THE MALE PERFORMER.

The concept of Girls on Boys was developed by Gülsen Özer, who selected five female choreographers who in turn produced five short dance pieces, each made with a male dancer. The first piece, I think it’s my birthday, was made by Yumi Umiumare ‘on’ Gerard Veltre. Butoh-influenced, the performance consisted of a slightly comic, ordinary set of moves. A clown of the everyday, Veltre exhibited a muscularity evocative of the gym. Sometimes staccato, distorted or drawing on mime, he used clothes to mark different sections of the work. The last construction was a kind of crop circle formed out of disbanded items. Placing himself in the middle, he concluded the piece by singing Happy Birthday to himself in a head-stand. There was a sense here of Umiumare’s taking the performer where she found him, enlarging the amplitude of his everyday performance qualities and ‘turning up the volume’ as a means to bring the piece into the theatre.

Dani-Ela Kayler’s piece for Lee Serle, titled Lady Purple, did not depart from the mundane, if comprising some rather odd movement qualities. The program notes clarified the character of movement here, referring to a puppet master and his marionette. If Serle was the marionette, then Kayler was the puppet master, again evoking an instrumental sense of producing work on bodies. Serle’s movements, however, were not evacuated of life as the notion of the puppet might suggest. Rather, they were discombobulated—his head moving independently of the rest of his body; a broken-necked lizard. Legs were posed against torso; a pelvis rotated at odd angles; a limp wrist dangled. The face scanned the crowd, with an odd expression. Was this a person or a weird resemblance come to life?

Boy, from Jo Lloyd for Adam Wheeler, was a more rhythmic piece, formed out of a sustained simplicity. For most of the piece, Adam bounced on the floor, his body straight as a ramrod. The legs softened and pushed, softened and pushed. Deviations slowly emerged, a twist, a gesture, all couched within the rhythmic tenor of the piece. Dianne Heywood-Smith and David Backler created El Abrazo (The Embrace), situated within the world of ballroom dancing, turned solo. Although the work referred to tango, this singular dancer could only gesture towards an absent other, unable to share weight in the merging of bodies. There was a whimsical edge as the dancer revealed his yearning for a partner, while assuming the facade of masculine self-sufficiency. Finally, Dianne Reid and Luke Hickmott gave us Magnificent Sadness, physically more complex than the other pieces. Led by different body parts moving into and out of the floor, Hickmott covered the floor in a way in which the other pieces did not, engaging in a range of movement qualities. The pace of his execution, the density of muscular tone, the sense of tension, and breadth of focus varied, as well as the way in which space was covered added a depth to this short piece.

All the pieces acknowledged the placement of audience, each in their own way, in a square around the action Umiumare more or less made a spiral, ending in the middle, Kaylor worked the sides of the square, Lloyd zigzagged the space, while Heywood-Smith forged a long slash across the middle. Finally, Reid navigated the space in all three-dimensions.

It was interesting to reflect upon a series of pieces involving men as performers, with no women onstage, also to speculate on the transfer of movement from a woman to a man. The brevity of each piece, including their development process, kept the work as a series of vignettes, enacting the concept of choreography on a body, inflected by an unusual a-gender.

Jo Lloyd’s new work, Apparently that’s what happened, at Art House’s Meat Market, was also performed in the round. The space of the performance was interspersed by a series of wooden cutouts, silhouettes resembling the three performers, caught in the headlights in stark poses. As the piece progressed, each of the three performers extracted a silhouette and lay it down in a same-shaped space on the floor, completing the jigsaw. Given the theme of the piece, the smoothing over of the floor, by filling its gaps, may have represented an accumulation of sense. The piece itself aimed to address the perspectival nature of experience, its incompletion from the point of view of subjectivity.

An event has occurred; but who has a god’s eye view? Each of the performers, partly obscured by the standing silhouettes, articulated a certain perspective to music which seemed to break with the reality of everyday time. Solos, duets and, finally, repeated group movements suggested an achievement of accord not present in the earlier sections. In the finale, falling snow was projected onto a cavernous darkness, while performers in puffy snowsuits moved mesmerically, their repetitions slowly sweeping the room like a rotating radius.

The story moved from disjointed objects and solos to a series of interrelations amongst performers, towards some kind of sameness or group harmony. In seeking to open out the work’s focus on the limitations of individual perspective, the stage design amplified this state, obscuring the audience’s visual sweep with its cutout figures. As the work progressed, individual viewpoints were brought into relation with other perspectives, to a final sense of belonging. I wonder whether the group identity at the end was something beyond the human or was meant to stay in the realm of the mundane? Is it ever possible to encapsulate the whole story? Not from this perspective.


Girls on Boys, curator Gülsen Özer, choreographers/performers Yumi Umiumare/Gerard Veltre; Dani-Ela Kaylor/Lee Serle; Jo Lloyd/ Adam Wheeler; Dianne Heywood-Smith/David Backler, Dianne Reid/Luke Hickmott, music Wendy Morrison, Dancehouse, Melbourne, May 28-June 1; Apparently that’s what happened, choreographer Jo Lloyd, performers Jo Lloyd, Luke George, Tim Harvey, design Jenny Hector, music Duane Morrison, David Franzke, Arts House, Meat Market, Melbourne, June 25-29

RealTime issue #86 Aug-Sept 2008 pg. 34

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

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