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Gary Lang, David McMicken, RUST Gary Lang, David McMicken, RUST
photo Rodney Loredo
Earlier this year Expressions Dance Company’s Virtually Richard3 was performed for one night at the Darwin Entertainment Centre to a threadbare crowd. Most likely the poor turnout had less to do with the quality of the production than the fact that Darwin audiences are not adventurous. For artists in Darwin (and throughout regional Australia) this presents a real dilemma: how do you simultaneously build houses and maintain a critical edge in your work?

Tim Newth and David McMicken have been Tracks’ artistic co-directors for over 10 years which has given them the opportunity to develop a practice that tackles this issue. They have established a reputation for intelligent, innovative productions addressing ideas relevant to their audiences with historical narratives, youth-devised works and large scale cross-cultural productions (see Spunner: Keeping our distance). They collaborate with Indigenous communities, youth and seniors. Recently Sri Lanka’s Sama Ballet collaborated with the company to national acclaim.

In their latest production, RUST, Tracks have taken an interesting new direction. Rather than work with a community, David McMicken has chosen to collaborate with electronic artist Elka Kerkhofs and Indigenous dancer Gary Lang. In this intimate production, the threesome explore middle age through a series of vignettes, some of which are serious and insightful, others playful high camp.

The focus of RUST is McMicken’s exploration through dance of his own ageing, looking at the effect of entropy on the physical body and simultaneously the wisdom that comes with age. He looks at the implications of ageing on his career as a dancer. He also manages to laugh at himself, at the prospect of becoming a doddering old thing or a slightly tragic, elderly disco bunny. At times he is joined onstage by Gary Lang who variously plays the part of straight man, partner in crime and spiritual advisor.

Elka Kerkhofs is a Belgian-born artist now based in Darwin where she has developed a practice that integrates performance, music and video. In RUST she has created a series of elegant video sequences on moveable screens, some using archival footage of McMicken’s performances over the past 10 years, some providing evocative backdrops for the dancers. She also devised the creaky, metallic soundscape largely from her own recordings. In this production, Kerkhoffs has achieved a seamlessness unencumbered by the demands of technology.

Tracks often stage their productions several times, sometimes in different towns across the Northern Territory, each staging an opportunity to further develop the work. RUST is slated for a larger production for the Darwin Festival next year allowing time for better articulation of the work’s themes in some scenes. Being able to convey complex ideas through dance is a difficult task and RUST largely achieves this. The directors’ long-term strategy is now paying off, allowing the company to present challenging work to large and appreciative audiences.

Tracks Dance Company, RUST, creators/directors David McMicken, Elka Kerkhofs; choreography/performance David McMicken, Gary Lang; Brown’s Mart Theatre, Darwin, Oct 27-31

RealTime issue #64 Dec-Jan 2004 pg. 34

© Malcolm Smith; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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