info I contact
advertising
editorial schedule
acknowledgements
join the realtime email list
become a friend of realtime on facebook
follow realtime on twitter
donate

magazine  archive  features  rt profiler  realtimedance  mediaartarchive

contents

  
Brooke Stamp, Luke George, Miracle Brooke Stamp, Luke George, Miracle
photo Jeff Busby
I LAST MET PHILLIP ADAMS, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF BALLETLAB, FOR REALTIME PRIOR TO THE PREMIERE OF HIS AXEMAN LULLABY MID-2008 (RT86, P32). AT THAT TIME, ADAMS WAS OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE COMPANY AND ITS PLACE IN THE AUSTRALIAN DANCE LANDSCAPE. DESPITE THE CRITICAL SUCCESS OF THIS WORK (IT JUST WON A COUPLE OF GREEN ROOM AWARDS FOR CHOREOGRAPHY AND FOR COMPOSITION) AND A CONFIDENCE-BOOSTING SHOWCASE AT THE CINARS INTERNATIONAL ARTS MARKET IN LATE 2008, ADAMS HAS BEEN SOBERED BY FUNDING REVERSALS FOR HIS COMPANY.

This meeting is about Miracle, the new full evening dance production to premiere at Melbourne’s Meat Market in July. It is also about Amplification, the piece that launched BalletLab in 1999 and which will be restaged at the Australian Dance Awards, in June, at Melbourne’s Arts Centre.

These two presentations are gratifying for Adams, as they bookend a decade of vigorous experimentation with form and content. The early piece was an apocalyptic response to the violence of the 20th century as it came to its close. It featured a score and choreography so ferocious it made audiences and critics alike sit up and notice the new company. For Adams Miracle is a “sequel to Amplification.”

Miracle’s starting point is the search for transcendence which follows the car crash of Amplification. Adams sees contemporary humanity pursuing the miraculous in order to escape disillusionment with the material world. He finds his evidence in the current resurgence of religious fanaticism, cults and mass market spirituality.

A New York residency at EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Centre, Rensselaer Polytechnic) gave Adams the opportunity to experiment with the clash of sound and choreography which he envisioned as creating the hallucinatory mood for the piece. He took four of his regular dancers—Luke George, Brooke Stamp, Clair Peters, Kyle Kremerskothen—as well as key collaborator and composer, David Chisholm, and new recruit, sound artist Myles Mumford, for a four week stay at this generously resourced arts centre [see RT 89, p24]. There Chisholm and Mumford recorded live sound from the dancers in rehearsal as well as a range of composed material with US instrumental group, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble).

This material will form the body of the design for Miracle, as Adams dispenses with set and works with a very limited lighting palette by Paul Jackson. Adams is not au fait with the fine points of the technology the composers are using but he is confident that the experiments they undertook at EMPAC with “handheld amplifying megaphones and a surround sound speaker orchestra” will create the effect of “a triumphant onslaught of hysteria.” Adams says, ”My fascination with the epiphany is performed against repetitive mantra, phrase and hymn-like voices. It is an examination of false hopes and religious stereotypes that promise a new beginning.” Chisholm and Mumford will perform the electronic score live, modifying it subtly to each performance. Adams talks about a technological illusion of levitation created through the sound of one hundred harmonicas played by the dancers, amplified and looped to create an almost intolerable din, instigating a prolonged state of suspension like a universal pause.

This sense of repulsion is one that Adams also aims for in the choreography. He told me about an outdoor try-out in Hobart which was quickly shut down. Adams’ desire to, “choreograph the frantic spectacle of a real life miracle” was too much for his Tasmanian audience. The state of desperation achieved by his dancers running raggedly across the stage to the point of exhaustion was apparently beyond the pale. “I have situated the performers sometimes as heavenly bodies, sometimes from mythology and above all I am trying to remove [a sense of ordinary humanity] from the structure of the performance.”

For Adams, Miracle is another step in the direction of visual art performance installation. Despite his adherence to the proscenium and his engagement of key collaborators from the performing arts, Adams is most stimulated by the possibilities for BalletLab outside the theatrical context.

Miracle will be programmed as part of Melbourne’s State of Design Festival and Adams is proud to state that director Fleur Watson was very taken by the relationship between the production and the “Sampling the Future” theme of her festival. The fact that the costumes for Miracle will be designed by Melbourne fashion designer of the moment, Toni Maticevski, could also have played a role in her decision to include BalletLab as the sole performing arts company in the program.

This new presenting partnership is an example of Adams’ entrepreneurial zeal and faith in the role of BalletLab as provocateur to the contemporary dance status quo. Adams talks with rhetorical glibness about “new audiences, new programming formats and art-form innovation” as the markers of his 10-year-old company. He may be turned off by the reductive process of business planning which won him so little funding reward last year, but he has clearly found a strategic position for which he will fight.

In 2010 BalletLab will undertake “a structured studio exchange” with the Australian Ballet as part of the Australia Council’s Interconnections project. Adams says that for both organisations “the project forges a new creative relationship to investigate different types of choreography that redefine dance genres, whilst promoting resource sharing between the small to medium-sized and the major performing arts sectors. Our program is a platform for BalletLab to realise its ambition to implement the Lab component of the company. Our collaboration will invoke a transformative creative experience between a progressive language in contemporary dance and classical technique. This creative dialogue will also be reconfigured through artistic collaborative experimentation in design and music composition.”

The Australian Ballet partnership, a major commission for 2010 from the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania and the prospect of international touring for Brindabella (RT83, p43) and Miracle are all keeping Phillip Adams upbeat in downbeat times.


BalletLab, Miracle, Arts House Meat Market, Melbourne, July 15-19, www.balletlab.com; State of Design Festival, July 15-25,www.stateofdesign.com.au

RealTime issue #91 June-July 2009 pg. 36

© Sophie Travers; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

Back to top