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
back

Dance Massive 2009


 Da Contents H2

dance massive
March 15 2009
knowing pop
carl nilsson-polias: luke george, lifesize

March 14 2009
ensemble power
carl nilsson-polias: rogue: a volume problem, the counting, puck


simultaneities
virginia baxter: rogue: a volume problem, the counting, puck

March 13 2009
inner-scapes
carl nilsson-polias: splintergroup, lawn

March 12 2009
nothing hidden, much gained
carl nilsson-polias: lucy guerin inc, untrained

dance massive
reality dance
keith gallasch: lucy guerin inc, untrained


talking australian dance internationally
virginia baxter: ausdance, international dance massive delegation day

dance massive
March 11 2009
18 minutes in another town
virginia baxter: helen herbertson & ben cobham, morphia series


dancing the cosmic murmur
jana perkovic: shelley lasica, vianne

March 10 2009
dance party art
keith gallasch: 180 seconds in (disco) heaven or in hell

March 10 2009
passing strange
keith gallasch: jo lloyd's melbourne spawned a monster

dance massive
March 9 2009
horror stretch
jana perkovic: splintergroup, roadkill


March 8 2009
in bed with a mortal engine
keith gallasch: chunky move's mortal engine

limina, or saying yes to no
jana perkovic: michaela pegum, limina; and the fondue set

who’s zooming who?
virginia baxter: chunky move, mortal engine

March 7 2009
rabbits down the hole
tony reck: the fondue set's no success like failure

suspending the audience
keith gallasch: splintergroup in roadkill

the return of the super-marionette
jana perkovic: chunky move's mortal engine

words for the time being
virginia baxter: russell dumas, huit à huit—dance for the time being

March 5 2009
lateral intimacies
jana perkovic: shannon bott & simon ellis' inert

March 3 2009
after glow
keith gallasch talks with chunky move’s gideon obarzanek

critical mass
virginia baxter: melbourne’s dance massive

engineering the arts
kate warren talks with arts problem solver frieder weiss

nothing to lose
keith gallasch: the fondue set’s no success like failure

worlds within
philipa rothfield: shelley lasica’s vianne

 

Antony Hamilton, Mortal Engine Antony Hamilton, Mortal Engine
photo Andrew Curtis
AT ITS IMPRESSIVE 2008 SYDNEY FESTIVAL PREMIERE, CHUNKY MOVE'S MORTAL ENGINE, A QUICKFIRE, HI-TECH BLEND OF BRIEF INTIMACIES, SPECTACULAR DISPLAY, PALPABLE THREAT AND A METAPHYSICAL SHE'LL-BE-RIGHT CODA, WAS OUT TO SEDUCE ME. AS I WROTE AT THE TIME, WHILE ATTRACTED I WASN'T QUITE SURE WHAT THE SHOW ADDED UP TO WITH ITS DIALECTICAL INTERPLAY OF COUPLE DRAMAS AND BEAUTIFULLY VIOLENT IMAGES EVOCATIVE OF THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. DANCE MASSIVE OFFERED THE OPPORTUNITY FOR A SECOND TRYST AND A POSSIBLE CONSUMMATION.

The experience turned out to be familiar, but it always amazes how much more you see the second time around, let alone how much you've forgotten of a first encounter. Well prepared for the speed of the courtship and the enveloping technological embrace, I found time opening out, and images clearer and more sustained. The male-female couple theme was more pervasive than I had recalled, and the motif of fingers reaching out to touch more far-reaching—a kind of God and Adam image out of Michelangelo but transposed affectingly and understatedly to an entirely human-animal realm.

The first image of Mortal Engine is a Big Bang; not a premature ejaculation, but a bright light pulsing a universe into being, one of unfamiliar geometries and pre-human rules. The light focuses again to a small circle in which we see fingers, stretching, reaching. But there is nothing to touch. The light expands, the hand dances from an elbow, an arm from a shoulder, until a whole primal female body is revealed, soon to battle with organic forces and shadow selves in a series of disturbing encounters. This is the very dark side of Mortal Engine, attractive for its artistry—the remarkable creation of shadow beings, the spores that flood out of a body and pour, rattling, back into it—but consumingly nightmarish. Keep your distance.

But what does Mortal Engine think about relationships? The male-female couple theme plays out in dance passages on the tilted stage-cum-screen and on a forward section of it which rises to the vertical to provide a recurrent 'aerial' image of a couple in bed. The first bed encounter reveals a female dancer. A hand reaches to her from the dark and she is immediately 'electrified', lightning-like lines flickering across and around her body. The male owner of the hand enters, holds the woman and 'earths' her, dissipating the electricity. He rests on her, perhaps asleep. She draws herself up and over him and exits. This touch has been powerful, dangerous and unresolved.

Soon, another couple appears, but at the top of the screen-stage. He's beneath her; he's a shadow figure. She looms above him and gestures with an open palm; he replies with the same. They become one: she's face-up, stretched out over him, but every time he moves a limb outwards, she sharply curtails and contains the move with her arms and legs. Touch here yields oppression. (A positive variation on this writhing image appears in Mortal Engine's final scene.) The couple pull apart as the screen flares into vivid white. He's pure shadow. They reach out with fingers across the distance, move together, embrace, each with one hand free from which fingers curl and extend behind backs. They separate, leaving behind their discrete shadows. A first intimacy has been achieved, but again provisionally.

The next 'bed' scene reveals a couple holding hands but angling away from each other to a sound like an earthquake. There is no sign of emotion, either in expression or movement, but the straining rumble suggests massive stress, countered by our amusement at the odd singular shapes that the sleeping couple restlessly make. Here is unconscious intimacy with dark undertones. A neat grid of angled blue lines fills a later 'bed' scene, a couple on one side, someone alone on the far side. As they move in their sleep, they fragment the lines about them. One of the couple leaves, another couple forms, lines break and re-form.

As Mortal Engine moves to its conclusion, a couple bathed in a warm golden glow reach out fingertip to fingertip and entwine in a deep, intimate embrace. But they too separate as he leaves. A rich green laser light plays through smoke, over the woman and into the audience, making us one with the stage action. She pushes at the laser walls and then sinks to the floor, as if overwhelmed by the sheer weight of evolutionary development and the stressed couple. Eventually, a silhouetted male appears over the top of the screen-stage, shapes the cosmic laser tunnel to a point of stability, and moves to and lifts the woman. They become one, like the multi-limbed, finger dancing goddess Kali, both creator and destroyer, and then stand, swaying sideways in opposite directions, together and apart.

It's an aetherial, dreamy resolution in a world far away from much of Mortal Engine's nightmarish intensity, and of a different technological aesthetic, but it has a thematic consistency of which I'd been only partly aware. Seated to the side at the Sydney Opera House, I had been denied a full view of the action in the final scene. This time I met a more nuanced Mortal Engine, found time to register subtleties of character, rhythm, and enjoyed the fine, seductive moves, if still wary of a dark psyche.

It's International Women's Day today, and I've had another thought about Mortal Engine. What do its various gender attributions add up to (the first human, a woman; the man electrifying the woman; the woman restraining the man; the man 'saves' the woman in the final scene)? These are perhaps not questions to be asked in bed.


Chunky Move, Mortal Engine, direction, choreography Gideon Obarzanek, performers Kristy Ayre, Sara Black, Amber Haines, Antony Hamilton, Marnie Palomares, Lee Serle, James Shannon, Adam Synnott, Charmene Yap, interactive system design Frieder Weiss, laser & sound art Robin Fox, composer Ben Frost, set design Richard Dinnen, Gideon Obarzanek, lighting design Damien Cooper, costume designer Paula Levis; Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, Mar 4-8; Dance Massive, Mar 3-15

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

Back to top