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Margrete Helgeby and Stefan Karlsson in I am Nijinsky Margrete Helgeby and Stefan Karlsson in I am Nijinsky
photo Ashley de Prazer
I am confused about the space I am in. Several weeks ago this room was much smaller. I’ve never known the PICA performance space to extend so far (seemingly to infinity), but stretch away it does and its angle and the images projecting onto the division add to my confusion. In I Am Nijinsky Stefan Karlsson is Nijinsky, sometimes. I’m sure that this space was smaller when I watched ID339 move around The Living Room they created back in November.

Can this be the same space? On that occasion there were corrugated cardboard walls as obviously flimsy as the facades of so many human relationships. This dancing trio’s fragile relational world orbits around their (and our) omnipresent host, David Hobbs. He spins discs, plugs and unplugs lights, moves and removes furniture. I expect him to give us the Terry Jones grin at any moment, but no Pythonesque cliches here.

The angled wall in front of me is hinged and I am witnessing a new episode in Nijinsky’s life opening, with the space, to reveal an oblong (one that Vaslav’s obtuse creativity may not fit into)—all around is monochrome. He dances or Stefan Karlsson does. His partner is Margrete Helgeby. I’ve seen her dance before. It is her. But only Karlsson confirms his identity. Then subverts it. They dance in real space as some other dance overlays their presence. (How did they do that?) These are phantoms I’m seeing—a virtual Karlsson and Helgeby—spirits of themselves floating impossibly away from real time.

Paul Johnson, Bill Handley and Paige Gordon in ID339’s The Living Room	Paul Johnson, Bill Handley and Paige Gordon in ID339’s The Living Room
photo Performance Photography
There was none of this virtuality with The Living Room. I knew where I was! Bill Handley’s foot-tapping, Paige Gordon’s obsession with the marking out of the floor, feet on the ground! I know this hop-scotch cum Olympic pool game, it’s familiar. When the mediocrity becomes too much, oppress or compete. Handley restrains Gordon. She thinks she is free he pulls her back again. Why? Hobbs organises some music, something from the modern jazz catalogue on a monaural gramophone just like my Dad had in the 60s. He needs to change the lights—he tugs on the double adaptor. This show is so low tech it’s nerve-racking. Paul Johnson starts a card game. I’m feeling the claustrophobia now, the cardboard walls have been erected to stand one third of the way into the space. I want to cut my way through them, get away from the interminable swish of the ceiling fans, the looks that pass between the performers and the conversations that go nowhere.

Now Nijinsky begins to collapse. His various mentors and ‘friends’ (Boris Radmilovich and Claire Jones) discuss his dilemma as Karlsson contextualises the historical Nijinsky within his own 1990s symbolism. What did this man mean to dancers? What does the Nijinsky canon represent? I’m feeling closed in again but this is the crowd around me causing my discomfort, tonight is a sell-out.

As I leave I wonder about the theatre of Sally Richardson moving toward dance and the dance of Paul Gazzola’s ID339 moving toward theatre. It’s an important shifting of ground. I suspect that the two genres cannot continue to be successful without amalgamation. The design conduits provided by the expertise of such people as Gary Chard and Graeme MacLeod may provide the route along which these journeys will travel.


The Living Room, ID339, PICA, November 26-December 1, 1996

I Am Nijinsky, written by Sally Richardson, produced by Deckchair Theatre and Sally Richardson, Perth Institute of Contemporary Art, January 8-February 1, 1997.

RealTime issue #18 April-May 1997 pg. 36

© Tony Osborne; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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