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Andrew Mujunen, Daniel Monks, Catalyst Dance Masterclass Series, Second Skin Andrew Mujunen, Daniel Monks, Catalyst Dance Masterclass Series, Second Skin
photo Gisella Vollmer
The Catalyst Dance Masterclass Series, Second Skin, was an impressive studio showing of dancers with varying degrees of ability working closely with professional choreographers to realise three short works with as many as 20 performers appearing in each. Some performed brief solos and others danced in various combinations, but always within a sense of the whole group, filling the stage with curving lines and fluid circles. These were works created over a few days, not at all finished but suggestive of the potential of brave performers working with adventurous choreographers.

In the first work, simply labelled Dance Work 1, choreographer Sue Healey enveloped her performers in a circled wall of fabric onto which were projected text (“I wrap my patchwork of words around my torso like a cloak I can hide in”) and recorded images of their moving bodies. These then flowed onto the dancers themselves as they emerged. Healey aimed to “form a ‘second skin’ to allow the dancers to connect inwards and outwards” (program note). A young performer with muscular dystrophy aptly abandoned her walking frame, moved centrestage and danced delicately as a length of fabric rose over and dipped beneath her (see p2). Healey’s quite demanding patterning of her performers revealed within the group strong body memory and spatial awareness.

Inspired by his scuba diving and extensive research into marine environments, Dean Walsh focused in the second work on oxygen and water as fundamental to human and all species’ existence, seeing them as constituting a “shared second skin” that links us all. Bathed in blue light, the performers entered with inflated balloons in their mouths, a reminder of our dependency on oxygen but also evoking free movement in a water world in which bodies sway as if floating, moving collectively within a swirling current to underwater sounds recorded by Walsh and mixed by DJ Scott Bobako.

Stella Barton, Accessible Arts NSW, Catalyst Dance Masterclass Series, Second Skin Stella Barton, Accessible Arts NSW, Catalyst Dance Masterclass Series, Second Skin
photo Gisella Vollmer
The third work, choreographed by Philip Channells, combined “imagery from the skeletal and musculature systems” with “physical memories (from childhood) with emotional attachments” to consider the complexities that constitute us all. This piece again revealed that the demands set by these three choreographers didn’t simply vary according to the apparent capacities of the performers, but with the dancers’ talents and ambitions to work with and against their disabilities.

Catalyst’s Masterclass series is “tailored to dancers with and without physical or sensory disability, and people with mental illness or acquired brain injury” (website). Catalyst is an initiative of Accessible Arts NSW addressing “a burgeoning of inclusive dance practice across the arts and disability sector. This is significant in NSW, which sadly lacks a professional, integrated performing company unlike Victoria and South Australia, respective homes to Back to Back Theatre and Restless Dance Theatre” (email correspondence). CEO Sancha Donald is hopeful that “the significant growth in participation in integrated dance will inevitably lead to the establishment of a professional ensemble in NSW.” Second Skin offers ample evidence that Catalyst could provide the talent for such a development.

Catherine Antypas, Sky Open Door Catherine Antypas, Sky Open Door
photo Gisella Vollmer
Second Skin opened with a guest work-in-progress performance, Blue Sky Open Door (choreographer Kay Armstrong) from Sunnyfield, an organisation dedicated to supporting people with intellectual disabilities. The work revealed a variety of effective strategies for developing sensitive solo and cooperative movement, including a striking performance by Catherine Antypas on a chair, executing an intense cycle of focused, fluent, extended arm movements.

Accessible Arts NSW, Catalyst Dance Masterclass Series, Second Skin, project manager Sarah-Vyne Vassalo, choreographers Sue Healey, Dean Walsh, Philip Channels, sound artist, DJ Scott Bobako; guest performance, Sunnyfield, Blue Sky, Open Door, choreographer Kay Armstrong; Bangarra Theatre, Sydney, 15 Sept

RealTime issue #118 Dec-Jan 2013 pg. 8

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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