|In Situ II, Still-Live, ReelDance Installations #03, CHOREOGRAPHICS|
photo Heidrun Löhr
Filmed against a white, deep background, In Situ II captures two female performers swirling in long full black skirts, their full sleeves later held straight with inserted poles, thus extending their physical sweep. The dynamic of their swirling is amplified by close-miking of the skirts (we listen through headphones), the swishing soon morphing into something like the rush of giant bird wings. The dancers’ sudden proximity to the camera and equally sudden distance from it is also bracing, the skirts filling the visual as well as the aural space. This immersiveness is further intensified by the dance of images from screen to screen, the makers using just one screen and rapidly building to five, or simply duplicating an image across all screens, working in twos and threes and other permutations.
Suddenly, it’s dark. Fluid movement is replaced with the wringing of water from sodden cloth, the crack of wet material, the snap of washed hair. What was airy and elegant (the costuming suggestive of middle class conservative female dress from the 18th century to recent times) is now liquid and sensual in this bracing Dutch-Moroccan creation from Said Mahrouf (costume designer, artist), Hester Tammes (writer, artist) and Toon de Zoeten (filmmaker). For curator Erin Brannigan the thrill of In Situ II also resides in how it recalls “the famous proto-cinematic performances of Loie Fuller’s skirt dances and the photographic motion studies of Jules Marey.”
In the same space as In Situ, Violin Phase/Fase Top Shot (Thierry De Mey and Rosas, Belgium) is another engrossing installation. You look down onto several square metres of sand onto which is projected dancer-choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker dancing, in turn, on a thin layer of white sand over a dark surface. In synch with the phasing of Steve Reich’s beautiful minimalist, pulsing Violin Phase, De Keersmaeker systematically marks patterns in the sand in a large unfolding circle, travels back over the same line, erasing some traces, scalloping new ones and sweeping to the centre in narrow arcs until she has created a series of petals and the whole becomes a mandalic flower. As she turns at the centre her skirt billows full (in empathy with her In Situ II sisters?), her arms swinging across her torso and out. She kicks and is propelled along the lines she’s created and now softly blurs until she returns to the centre, looks up at us, sucks in a deep breath and disappears, leaving her creation behind. Shot from a 20-metre high crane, Violin Phase/Fase Top Shot is not only exquisite evidence of the commonplace claim that dancers generate or map out space (likewise magically witnessed, and again aerially, in Chunky Moves’ Glow) but also an act of dancerly embroidery visually resonant with the erotic domesticity of In Situ II.
Still-Live (Simon Ellis, David Corbet, Melbourne), the third installation, was located in part in the CarriageWorks foyer where on touch-screen kiosks you could, with a finger, manipulate half-tone images of dancers in short movement phrases (as you can do at www.skellis.net/dad.project/). Inside the Performance Space Gallery the same images were simultaneously projected at human scale, one on each of two facing walls, creating a kind of duet. The staccato delivery and the limited visual information meant that there was never quite enough fluidity of movement to make sense of a dancer’s style, unless you already knew their work, and even then...Curiously it was the antique technology of the hard copy flicker books rather than this digital equivalent that provided just enough flow and a sense of essence; they have been very well-thumbed in our household. If Still-Live felt like the artists were on the edge of something but weren’t quite ready to take us with them, the makers of In Situ II and Violin Phase/Fase Top Shot took us right in with their cinematic magic. The great thing about ReelDance Installations #03 is this sense of risk and exploration, Ellis and Corbet included, but also the scale of the experience (not something for the DVD player at home) and having somewhere just right for its staging.
ReelDance Installations #03, CHOREOGRAPHICS, An Exploration of Dance & the Moving Image, curator Erin Brannigan, Performance Space, CarriageWorks, Sydney, May 26-June 30
RealTime issue #81 Oct-Nov 2007 pg. 44
© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to email@example.com