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on edge


fish-bowl dreaming

kate cooper: bonemap, whispering limbs

Kate Cooper is a Cairns-based writer and performance artist.

Earl Rosas, Whispering Limbs, Bonemap Earl Rosas, Whispering Limbs, Bonemap
IN WHISPERING LIMBS THE VERY FORCES OF NATURE HAVE MORPHED AND DISTORTED. WE ARE GRIPPED BY A FEELING OF FOREBODING. AN UNDERCURRENT OF BURGEONING CHAOS BUBBLES BENEATH THE SURFACE OF THIS STRANGE PARALLEL LAND.

Those who dwell here are twisted, hybrid versions of humanity, moving with a strange blend of supreme elegance and exaggerated rigidity, teetering and towering on stiletto heels, then shuffling ominously like the dancing undead.

Bonemap’s new work takes us into a dark, cosmic realm fraught with unseen danger and illicit desire. It is a creative explosion of diverse dance and movement, haunting soundscape, evocative new media art and vivid costume design. Whispering Limbs furthers Bonemap’s deeply introspective dialogue with nature, exploring ecology through physical and visual expression. Here Rebecca Youdell and Russell Milledge collaborate with dancer Earl Rosas and Brisbane-based performance ensemble Polytoxic.

At the show’s beginning Rosas appears like an ancient shaman. He enters slowly and carefully, a goldfish bowl filled with water balanced precariously on his head. Concentration is etched on his face, the atmosphere tense and electric as his dark, sinewy limbs twist, bend and mould in a precise articulation of quiet, renewable strength and infinite balance. Like a mystic yogi he meditates on deep, unspeakable thoughts, encapsulated in the spherical vessel. Or perhaps he is a titan, suspended in space, carrying a blue planet.

Bonemap, Whispering Limbs Bonemap, Whispering Limbs
But there are new images to dream on. A large, creamy cloud of stiff cloth rises in a box high on the wall. As it floats and expands an arm emerges, like a seeking periscope. It darts and curves gracefully as if with a life of its own. A woman’s face and torso follow the arm and the cloud becomes an elegant ballgown.The woman dances, like a beautiful figurine in a music box, the skirt billowing below her. She pushes it down again and again, but soon it consumes her and plunges both of them back into darkness.

We enter other worlds of dancing dolls and dresses. Rebecca Youdell struts about in tutu and clunking boots, chews gum and glares at the audience, nonchalant and distinctly unimpressed. Her brattish rudeness unleashes itself in a dance of pure, unadulturated glee; her delicate, agile spins and twirls amaze and utterly captivate. But she grows bored. With wicked playfulness the doll-like figure launches into a bizarre, somewhat disturbing corroboree. Before her performance ends she unfastens a tired corsage of weeds and hurls it into the audience, like a demonic bride tossing her floral bouquet.

These are just some of the vivid imaginings which form the surreal collage that is Whispering Limbs. Water is a recurring, connective theme. At one point three performers appear in raincoats and gumboots. They trudge across the stage, water leaking from within their coats. It rains from them. They tip their boots in unison, pouring the water into a pond. In the finale Rosas returns with his water vessel and goldfish. This time he places it high on a metallic structure as menacing girls in old-fashioned, hooped skirts lurk threateningly underneath. Could it be, in this nightmarish ending, that this fish-bowl world is symbolic of our own?

Whispering Limbs is an intoxicating, immersive, hyper-sensory experience—a dark dreamscape. We feel the beauty and coarseness of nature and ponder the ambiguity and unpredictability of the human psyche as the work’s blend of rich imagery and delicate symbolism burn into the memory.


On Edge, Bonemap, Whispering Limbs, design, media Russell Milledge, composer Steven Campbell, performers Rebecca Youdell, Earl Rosas, Polytoxic [Lisa Fa’alafi, Efeso Fa’anana, Leah Shelton]; JUTE Theatre, Cairns, July 9-11.

Kate Cooper is a Cairns-based writer and performance artist.

RealTime issue #93 Oct-Nov 2009 pg.

© Kate Cooper; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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