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Dance Massive 2011

March 15-27, 2011


 Da Contents H2

March 29 2011
sounds massive
gail priest: the soundtracks of dance massive

the limits of the extraordinary
nilsson-polias: force majeure, not in a million years, dance massive

March 27 2011
let's dance—and we do
jana perkovic: bluemouth inc, dance marathon, dance massive

the unexploited
keith gallasch: antony hamilton, drift, dance massive

March 26 2011
post-apocalyptic drive-in dancing
carl nilsson-polias: antony hamilton, drift, dance massive

suspending self, time & disbelief
keith gallasch, virginia baxter: trevor patrick, i could pretend the sky is water, dance massive

talkin' 'bout my generation
philipa rothfield: becky, jodi & john, john jasperse company, dance massive

the truth of the matter, or not
jana perkovic: gideon obarzanek, faker, chunky move dance massive

March 24 2011
erupting from the archive
carl nilsson-polias: balletlab, amplification, dance massive

realtime video interview: trevor patrick
i could pretend the sky is water

March 23 2011
in the heat of the moment
keith gallasch: deanne butterworth, matthew day, dance massive

the ambiguities of happiness
jana perkovic: shaun parker, happy as larry, dance massive

March 22 2011
displacements: space, stage, workplace
keith gallasch: branch nebula's sweat & other works

present, tense
virginia baxter: luke george, now now now: dance massive

realtime video interview: luke george
now now now

March 20 2011
realtime video interview: gideon obarzanek
connected

realtime video interview: madeleine flynn & tim humphrey
music for imagined dances

realtime video interview: michelle heaven & brian lucas
disagreeable object

realtime video interview: rosalind crisp
no one will tell us...

March 19 2011
the poisoned pea
virginia baxter: michelle heaven, disagreeable object, dance massive

turning the tables, working the audience
carl nilsson-polias: sweat, branch nebula, dance massive

March 18 2011
dance like never before
keith gallasch: rosalind crisp, no one will tell us...; dance massive

the uneasy weight of metaphor
virginia baxter: shaun mcleod, the weight of the thing left its mark

March 17 2011
into the dance-scape
jana perkovic: narelle benjamin, in glass, dance massive

kinetics: sculpted & danced
carl nilsson-polias: connected, chunky move, dance massive

the art machine dances
keith gallasch: connected, chunky move, dance massive

March 16 2011
ghost dancing
keith gallasch: narelle benjamin, in glass, dance massive

journey of the tribe
jana perkovic: herbertson & cobham, sunstruck, dance massive

March 10 2011
kinetic art machine makes waves for dance
john bailey: reuben margolin & chunky move's connected

February 21 2011
dance massive 2011 artists: from the archive
force majeure, not in a million years; narelle benjamin, in glass, chunky move, faker; branch nebula, sweat; shaun mcleod, the weight of the thing left its mark: luke george, now, now, now; phillip adams amplification

the meeting point
sophie travers: steven richardson, dance massive

 

Happy as Larry, Shaun Parker Happy as Larry, Shaun Parker
courtesy the artist
I ENCOUNTERED SHAUN PARKER’S HAPPY AS LARRY WITH A VIVID FEAR OF REPEATING A RECENT EXPERIENCE OF SEEING A PERFORMANCE ON HAPPINESS DEVISED BY SOME THEATRE UNDERGRADUATES. AFTER AN HOUR OF WATCHING THEM FROLIC AND TUMBLE, GIGGLE AND DANCE, I BELIEVE THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE WISHED THEM DEAD. NOTHING CAN BE QUITE SO IRRITATING AS WATCHING A PERSON IN A PROLONGED STATE OF BEING DEEPLY HAPPY. WE DO NOT IDENTIFY, QUITE THE CONTRARY: WE FEEL EXCLUDED, DISRESPECTED, IGNORED. WE MAKE COMPARISONS TO ARYAN PROPAGANDA. WE FEEL ENVY.

Not without reason have the classic theatrical forms focused on showing us great tragedies, or ridiculing deeply flawed characters. That’s something to identify with easily: suffering and smugness. Herein lies the paradox of mimesis: another’s happiness is not transferable by identification, does not become my happiness. Show me a happy person on stage, I am likely to see only a self-satisfied bastard.

Happy as Larry shows us people in prolonged states of happiness for no less than 75 minutes, with no narrative arc or character development to introduce variety, and no recourse to the spoken word. However, within this field of monotony it focuses on the varieties of experience and personality, loudly proclaiming its employment of the Enneagram’s nine personality types to create an interesting range of joyful experiences.

We watch very different people enjoy very different activities: a ballerina delights in perfectly executing a classical figure; two young men copy each other’s movements flawlessly, their happiness being both shared and competitive; three women dance, laughing, lightly and not overly concerned with precision; a roller-skater learns to control his wheels. Adam Gardnir’s elegant set, a rotating blackboard slab, keeps the meter of the show, sweeping dancers upstage and bringing new scenes on. While most activities are representations of a simple, even childlike delight in bodily coordination, synchronised movement or skill, some are complex and intriguing. A narcissistic seducer, compulsively revealing his tattoo, dances despite Dean Cross’s chalked suggestion: “Don’t just do something. Stand there.” Miranda Wheen, on the other hand, appears on the scene only as a mediator of other performers’ journeys: she tries to contain the seducer’s movements, or picks up and steadies the roller-skater. Her satisfaction is palpable, and yet there remains a niggling trace of disappointment as the stage is never hers, her fulfilment never self-generated.

Ghenoa Gela, Happy as Larry, Shaun Parker & Company Ghenoa Gela, Happy as Larry, Shaun Parker & Company
photo Prudence Upton
It is this democratisation of what could otherwise easily be a fascist insistence on unity of experience that guides Happy as Larry safely out of dangerous waters or sparking a riot in the audience. The rotation of interacting, interfering characters opens up a space for identification. While Parker spends too long hitting a single emotional note, thus provoking some boredom, he also repeatedly manages to bring us back by creating a fresh image of a kind of joy we have previously not considered—such as Cross’ deep, rich euphoria expressed through forceful sliding across the stage, leaving powerful and inarticulate daubs of chalk on the board, a possible representation of artistic creation. Moments of such recognition are powerful if infrequent, and it does make one wonder about how little time we spend thinking about what makes us happy, and how much worrying about what worries us.

The choreography and the technique are beautiful, and this is to a large extent a dance to enjoy for the variety of dancing bodies and styles. However, the dramaturgy is held together more by the rotating slab and the excellent soundtrack (available on iTunes, no less!) than by any sound sense of purpose. What backbone there is is provided by a recurring attempt to illustrate the fleetingness of happiness—from trying to draw a square around a balletic swirl to the ever-growing ridiculous chalk diagrams of Marnie Palomares’ limbs. Like Luke George’s excellent NOW NOW NOW (see p16), Happy as Larry allows the pursuits of the present moment to resolve in absurdity. Now is only ever now, and the detritus of these moments is not happiness itself, any more than the collection of props in a gallery could ever be a decent substitute for Marina Abramovic.

After many false endings, the final scene turns unexpectedly bleak: the choreography resolves into unison repetition of movements one could expect from football hooligans—raised fists, chest banging, machine-gun mime. This is repetition for its own sake, dark and not at all joyful, the very image of the death drive. Is this what happens when we try to retrieve irrecuperable happiness? There is not enough solid dramaturgy to know for sure. One by one the dancers leave the stage, leaving Dean Cross entangled in the balloons, themselves detritus from the beginning of the show which, I forgot to mention, involved a sequence of very simple stage trickery. Light switches drawn on the blackboard ‘operated’ stage lights and a flock of balloons was summoned with a snap of fingers. Happiness seemed a very simple thing at that time.


Dance Massive: Shaun Parker, Happy as Larry, director/choreographer Shaun Parker, dramaturg Veronica Neave, musical director Nick Wales, composers Nick Wales, Bree van Reyk, production design Adam Gardnir, Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, March 22, 23; www.dancemassive.com.au

RealTime issue #102 April-May 2011 pg. 18

© Jana Perkovic; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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