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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

 

 Mortal Engine, Chunky Move Mortal Engine, Chunky Move
photo Rom Anthonis
ONE OF THE MOST INNOVATIVE AUSTRALIAN PERFORMANCE WORKS OF RECENT TIMES, GLOW, WAS THE OUTCOME OF A COLLABORATION BETWEEN CHUNKY MOVE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR GIDEON OBARZANEK AND GERMAN INTERACTIVE VIDEO SYSTEMS MAKER FRIEDER WEISS. AFTER PREMIERING IN MELBOURNE AND SUCCESSFULLY TOURING TO THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE STUDIO, GLOW IS FEATURED IN THIS YEAR’S MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL. AFTER THAT, IT’S OFF TO VANCOUVER’S PUSH INTERNATIONAL PERFORMANCE FESTIVAL, NEW YORK’S THE KITCHEN (IN PARTNERSHIP WITH PS21 AND THE JOYCE THEATRE) AND LONDON’S SOUTHBANK HAYWARD GALLERY. IN THE MEANTIME, A NEW WORK, AN EVOLUTIONARY STEP ON FROM GLOW IS ALREADY IN DEVELOPMENT FOR AN EARLY 2008 PREMIERE.

In Glow, the audience look down from all sides of the theatre onto a white floor-cum-screen on which a dancer generates an animated environment, initially taut and geometric and then ominously impressionistic. The performer appears to evolve from a huddled form into human shape, creating a world of astonishing shapes and colours around her, one which eventually takes on a threatening life of its own. It’s an intense experience and, dark as its theme appears to be, an exhilarating one, the thrill not simply at the technological magic but in its meaningful integration.

It seems long ago that laser-driven interactivity offered an apparently unique potential for performers to drive their own lighting and sound effects, but it rarely came to much. However, using instead interactive video systems developed by Frieder Weiss with his Calypso software, Glow effectively and convincingly realises the dream. Now, in a new work, Mortal Engine, Obarzanek and Weiss come together again, but this time with Melbourne-based sound artist Robin Fox on oscilloscope and sound and, yes, adding lasers.

For Obarzanek, lasers offer “a way of getting off the screen into the volume of the space, including above the audience in the auditorium.” As well Weiss has got the video and laser systems speaking to each other. The advantage of the laser system is that, as well as being responsive to sounds, it can track more bodies than Glow’s one dancer, allowing Obarzanek a cast of six.

Obarzanek says that for Robin Fox it’s a return to working with the oscilloscope (his recent focus has been on lasers) here projected onto the screen floor, following a dancer (thanks to an algorithm created in Weiss’ Calypso) as well as responding to sound files, as it has done in Fox’s powerful sound art works. Both Weiss and Fox will work live in Mortal Engine, meaning that visuals and sounds can change performance to performance. The company will skill up a trainee in the technology for subsequent seasons.

Kristy Ayer, Glow, Chunky Move Kristy Ayer, Glow, Chunky Move
photo Andrew Curtin
Compared with Glow, there is an exponential growth in realtime interactivity and its variables in Mortal Engine. Towards the end of Glow, Obarzanek says, the graphics, in relationship to the performer’s body, had become semi-autonomous. He and Weiss wanted to go past the “quite straightforward” approach of Glow to a point where the environment in Mortal Engine, he stresses, “will most certainly have a life of its own.”

Mortal Engine will also be a longer work, 60 minutes to Glow’s 26, but not all of it technologically governed and not all danced. There will be passages created with the dancers where the video-laser system will be in ‘off’ mode and another in which Robin Fox will project his oscilloscope onto a stage emptied of dancers and filled with sound.

Again, the stage floor will also serve as a screen, but given the considerable challenges Glow offered presenting venues (many theatres find it hard to provide the audience overview and some have had to build the appropriate banks of seating), Obarzanek has opted for a raked floor that can be deployed on a conventional stage. Given what he describes as his “aversion to vertical screens”, the rake seems a good solution, especially when complemented with the overhead possibilities provided by lasers. The rake also has panels that unfold from the floor. The design is by Obarzanek working with the company’s production manager Richard Dinnen, the music by Iceland-based Australian composer Ben Frost.

Obarzanek’s vision seems to have a distinctive if lateral cinematic dimension—integrating the screen into his performance spaces in Glow and the forthcoming Mortal Engine, but also in making films. His first venture was a dance film for the ABC, Wet (1998), which he thinks he “took on far too early” and which “made him shy of film.” However, at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival his 10-minute Dance Like your Old Man (2007) won Best Short Documentary against international competitors and the Nova Award for Innovative Australian Cinema. In the film women dance like their fathers while describing their relationships with them. Obarzanek recalls feeling “thrilled and shocked” about winning “because the film was so simple. I generally have an aversion to dance on film, but that makes it a challenge to do it.”

What particulary pleased Obarzanek was being rewarded for making a documentary. It’s what he’s been doing on stage, he says, in works like the poll data-driven Wanted: Ballet for a Contemporary Democracy (2002) and the interview based I Want to Dance Better at Parties (2004) which features men talking about themselves and dance). He suspects that the effectiveness of Dance Like Your Old Man comes from the tension between the images of the women dancing, on the one hand, and, on the other, what they say about their fathers: “it’s more complex, more difficult”, whereas “the dancing is cute but quickly runs out without the words.”

With the fellow creators of the celebrated Tense Dave (2003)—Lucy Guerin and Michael Kantor—Obarzabek shares another aversion, to dance theatre: “We like the idea but we don’t think it works.” But as with dance film, it’s something to take on, now for a second time. The low tech Tense Dave used a giddying stage revolve to great effect, constantly and magically, even cinematically, reframing action and images with limited means. The new work, Two-Faced Bastard, with the same team, is already in the making; “even more low tech, almost no costuming, strong performers and performed to two fronts. Two shows are presented at the same time separated by a curtain with the performers slipping through it from one show to the other. It’s a challenge because you can always hear what’s happening in the other show.” We can look forward to some more theatre magic and, doubtless, as in Tense Dave, Glow and Mortal Engine, human wilfullness tangling with an environment (low tech or high) that appears to have a life of its own.

Chunky Move is in full touring mode: I Want to Dance Better at Parties is soon off to Pittsburgh after a five city tour in the USA and to Vancouver and Christchurch earlier this year; and Glow has been to Sydney and Darwin, the Netherlands and soon travels to Beijing, Shanghai, Dresden and Perth before going on to the USA and UK. Obarzanek has no doubt that the company’s new works, Mortal Engine and Two-Faced Bastard, will provide major opportunities for international touring. Chunky Move will continue to take Australian performance innovation to the world—and in Glow and Mortal Engine, innovation born of Australian and German invention.


Chunky Move, Glow, Chunky Move Studio 1, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Oct 12-27, www.chunkymove.com, www.melbournefestival.com.au

From RT81 Oct-Nov 2007 pg. 41

For full program and booking information: www.dancemassive.com.au

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

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