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MoveMe’s becoming & arriving

Maggi Phillips, MoveMe


Michael Schumacher, Dans le Jardin Michael Schumacher, Dans le Jardin
photo Simon Pynt
Improvisation, especially when packaged boldly as a MoveMe Festival presented by STRUT Dance, the nation’s new centre for choreographic development, simmers into consciousness as a sensory evocation of Deleuze and Guatarri’s idea of becoming, of ideas and entities struggling to be born and yet ever trembling before the act. This resistance to being known is a goldmine for possibilities though one fraught with inevitable frustrations. The week, perforated with performances and workshops, certainly fired (and tired) the Perth contemporary dance population as they embraced an array of international guests and knuckled down to the serious stuff of playing with movement, sound and text.

Jo Pollitt, Paea Leach and their co-performers “pick[ed] up and put down their feet” … and arms, torsos and clipped breathing in Beast #3. This version picks up and puts down compositional and random vibrations, split three ways in pairs (with an interlude from a guest duo). The mathematical structure, even in its light-hearted looseness, spawned paired metaphors ranging over control meeting spontaneity, rigour flipped to parody, rhythm inverted to scatter and conversation become noise. The cross-fades mesmerise, yet hover beyond articulation or the parameters of precise meaning. Individual movers emerge and slip back into shared spaces; this becomes particularly evident in the third section where the game of changing leadership is explored. Text threaded further poetic resonances through the quivering patterns though the dialogue invariably faded below my hearing and, consequently, I missed much of the reeling choreography of this mode of expression straining towards form.

Hansueli Tischhauser, Rosalind Crisp, No One Will Tell Us Hansueli Tischhauser, Rosalind Crisp, No One Will Tell Us
photo Gregory Lorenzutti
Beast’s pairing turned into a three-way overlap with Rosalind Crisp, Hansueli Tischhauser and Andrew Morrish in No-one Will Tell us …, equivalent in many ways to Cage and Cunningham’s coincidence of happenings occurring in the same space and time. Crisp begins in silence and a single throw of light, the right attention to accentuate fingers and toes and the myriad isolated impulses given to an embryonic corporeal enunciation. Like nascent language, the tiny gestures begin and, yet, never arrive to speak. Then Tischhauser’s sonic landscape spreads, the electronic bass reverberating over the miniature gestures in voluminous sonorities which penetrate the senses and leave Crisp’s movements like obscure memories. Into that mix comes “there is no story, just bits or shards” as the charismatic Morrish proceeds to tell a story of Brian, psychic arms and sheep. As nonsensical as those phrases may appear, Morrish does actually concoct a tale which bounces off the movement and sound like an ironic overplay or, in retrospect, like communication come into being.

On another evening, Ros Warby ties up embodied hierarchies and their elimination in Court Dance, an intellectual exercise which rummages through the historical framing of dance as a discipline. Courtly behaviour is engraved in balletic form and its European heritage: the foppery of over-elaborate flourishes marking out the aristocracy as much as does the convention of turn-out, purported to display the body for the consumption of an elite. Warby insinuates these associations in bowing port de bras and squared movements which quickly disintegrate into faltering awkwardness. The transitions are appealing, even comic in moments, but the constant fidelity to undoing loses momentum and strangely, for the unpredictable nature of improvisation, trails away into democratic evenness. The second work on the program, No Time to Fly, re-examines Deborah Hay’s original choreography, giving Warby licence to tangle with the non-linear reality of the maker’s point of departure and the intervening experiences of being involved in this same score for three soloists. Fragmented murmurs of movement and sound under scrutiny ripple and twist beneath the light and disappear before continuity settles. Like Court Dance, non-linearity tends to settle into its opposite.

After the spate of rigorous investigations brought by the works above, Michael Schumacher and Alex Waterman’s Dans le Jardin spun improvisation across the imagination in mysterious ways. Schumacher and Waterman obviously pre-plan to exploit the unseen potential of the available ‘garden’ spaces that come their way, in this instance, Perth’s State Theatre Centre courtyard, a balconied, partial enclosure set with tables and chairs and minimal saplings-just-become-trees to validate the horticultural title. The artists had studied the architectural surfaces and dimensions in which sound and movement could play but they could not have foreseen what imprints their choices might have in moments of actuality. The telling image for me came after Schumacher had set up a kind of hide-and-seek game, disappearing in between the downstairs foliage and isolating arm and fingering against the upstairs surfaces. His next appearance, only hinted at with a subtle change of lighting, was picked-up by two small boys who ran to the slightly removed grating which separates the courtyard from the formidable underfoot illumination of the main-street entrance to the complex. The boys clung to the wire as silhouetted figures, upright and totally attentive, against Schumacher’s controlled fall in the dazzling light. It was a geometric moment and one filled with angles of unspoken meaning before the viewing adults, realising the location of the action, moved to exploit the youthful intuition and obscured the image.

Human intuition, communication and play fused in that moment and confirmed the inestimable value of improvisation. I saw that irradiating pathway anew, heard the sonorous cello sweeps expand around the enclosure, felt the body stretch beyond itself and knew that there was a purpose in a confluence which happened to and was crystallised by those boys. Improvisation, planned, derived from experience and performed in the moment had arrived. In the ensuing activity where Schumacher returned to the courtyard and the sophisticated adult environment, the boys stuck like glue to his incidental encounters, becoming part of the performance, gleefully guarding a found (or placed) twig he entrusted to them as he wove from a beer at the bar to a hand balance, from a swivel salute to a skitter around the now entrancing space. This garden bloomed from an urbanised enclave to an enchanted arcadia of surprise. Improvisation, with all its degrees of design and improbability became performance and confirmed MoveMe’s conception as a festival.


STRUT Dance, MoveMe Improvisation Festival, Beast#3, Jo Pollitt & Paea Leach with Tony Currie, Gregory Lorenzutti, Rachel Arianne Ogle, Patricia Wood, guests Isabella Stone & Ella Rose Trew, composer Mace Francis, lighting Ellen Knops; No-one will tell us …, Rosalind Crisp, Andrew Morrish, Hansueli Tischhauser, lighting: Marco Wehrspann; Court Dance, Ros Warby, music Helen Mountfort, voice Ria Soemardjo; No Time to Fly, choreography Deborah Hay, adaptation, performance Ros Warby; Dans le Jardin, dance Michael Schumacher, music Alex Waterman, lighting Ellen Knops; Perth Cultural Centre, 22-29 Nov, 2014

See also Nerida Dickinson's review

RealTime issue #125 Feb-March 2015 pg. 28

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

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