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Choreographic beginnings

Jonathan Marshall: STRUT dance, Dance #1

The relatively young dance-makers of STRUT’s Dance #1 offered several different models of the dancing body’s intelligence in performance. Arguably the most ‘venerable’ interpretation was that of Alice Holland’s Unpinning, an evocative, often athletic solo involving the fluid posing of the body through the smooth yet nevertheless complicated redirection of its inertia and weight via circular swirls, down, across and up again. This created the somewhat paradoxical sense of a highly crafted self-presentation coupled with an unreflective physical palette, linked to breath, spine-curving inflation and chest-hollowing deflation. With her poised presence, Holland skirted Expressionist clichés to create an intriguingly traditional yet contemporary work.

Owing less to Martha Graham was Debbie Robertson’s Lit. Sequentially choosing circumscribed spaces, she offered not a body linked via breath to nature or psychological depths, but an intensely intimate, cognitive body. Careful extensions and tracing of lines out from the torso and diagonally back characterised movement which was somewhat reminiscent of the choreography of Rosalind Crisp. The audience was offered a representation of the thinking body, a physique carefully retracing the spatiality of memory and proximity. While Holland shone in clear light and a white dress close to the audience, Robertson remained at a consciously suspended distance at the edges of the space, in shadowy light and a crisp, dark costume.

Different again was Bianca Martin’s blank-faced representation of failed romance, Honey You Lied. Elvis’ Love Me Tender filled in the ironic content of Martin’s ambivalent physical performance, her movement shifting between restful standing positions in which one arm traced the side of the torso where her lover’s arm used to be before the body dropped to the ground and legs crossed above it, flashes of underwear implying a sense of sexual distress. This was a fun study with hints of darkness, which promised greater depth in a future, full-length work.

Another sense of narrative was provided by Sermsah Bin Saad’s Totem. The piece opened with didgeridoo music and the low, horizontally-held chest and bent-legged cross-stepping of much traditionally informed Aboriginal dance. Bin Saad avoided the familiar fusion style of Bangarra Dance Theatre Company, retaining a somewhat harder physical stance in the first section before the body slipped into capoeira and hip hop style ground work and flips accompanied by electronic beats. Moving from an abstracted representation of his Aboriginal totem–the pelican–to a highly athletic body swinging from a rope, Bin Saad’s dance suggested a more interesting confluence of influences than the often kitsch populism of Bangarra.

The most choreographically sophisticated piece was Jessyka Watson-Galbraith’s Insufficient Funds. Beginning with a dancer sitting on a chair placed horizontally along the floor to complete an asymmetric triad, the 3 dancers rearranged each other and paused as though offering stills from an emotionally eviscerated chess game. Bony, anatomical articulations similar to the choreogaphy of Gideon Obarzanek tended to dominate, while Watson-Galbraith’s leg spinning ground work similarly recalled the hip hop and popular culture influences of modern dance. Her main motif was an alternation of implicit tension, moving between languid, barely motivated bodies with no apparent connection, to physically scattered forms linked by an abiding sense of flexed unease. Without any overt expressiveness, this was nevertheless a highly theatrical piece, suggestive of relationships between individuals. A former veteran of youth dance company Steps (which also staged the delightful Mania in May, featuring the disarmingly cabaretic presence of composer Cathie Travers), Watson-Galbraith and the other Dance #1 choreographers presented a strong, diverse season which promised great things to come.

STRUT dance, Dance #1, curator Sue Peacock, including: Honey You Lied, choreographer-performer Bianca Martin; Insufficient Funds, choreographer Jessyka Watson-Galbaith; Unpinning, choreographer-performer Alice Lee Holland; Carry Oga Champ choreographer-performer Chelsea Funnel; Lit, choreographer-performer Debbie Robertson; Totem, choreographer-performer Sermsah Bin Saad; Exhale, choreographer-performer Aimee Smith, Chapel Space, Perth, May 5-8

RealTime issue #67 June-July 2005 pg. 16

© Jonathan Marshall; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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