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On the precipice of dancing matter

Maggi Phillips: Rachel Ogle, Precipice

Niharika Senapati, Tyrone Robinson, Imanuel Dado and Storm Helmore, Precipice Niharika Senapati, Tyrone Robinson, Imanuel Dado and Storm Helmore, Precipice
photo Traianos Pakioufakis
An axle of light cleaves the silence like a strange attractor in the deep night of space. Bodies balance on this precipice of becoming, staring across infinitude while succumbing to the forces of attraction and repulsion.

Rachel Ogle’s cosmic dance, Precipice, glances gravely into being as an impressively contained universe of matter and motion, of sound and light. It is difficult to determine whether the four dancers are actually distinguishable from the dimensions which they inhabit. They are enigmatic carriers of ceaseless patterns which both bind and confound the senses. In those first moments of approaching, falling away and returning, velocity gathers pace until the dancers’ energy splinters sound and illumination with screams of presence. Then, with a snap, the cry of human loss is cut as the audience is plunged back into the dark and soundless abyss. The cosmos seems to fold human agency and desire into yet other bits of matter circulating into eternity. But, in this work, the dancing and the dancers do still matter.

In earth-bound terms, the dancers’ sporadic encounters often wheel into irregularity. One dancer’s twisting instability is juxtaposed with a horizontal folding of the three others, edged sharply in their carefully composed unison of turning. Vibrational momentum wraps angle and speed unto itself, incipient with form and variation, straining towards thought and communication. There is the cosmos in planes of abstraction, and there is the cosmos of human imagination and interconnection, which demands an emotional response. Both exist, signalling significance, even if the miniscule and the daunting whole do not logically hold.

Here is where I found the precipice in the work, in the sheer drop in which matter on the grand scale turns human, pivoting around vortices towards meaning. Ultimately, the work is a conversation between the human and the cosmos where wonderment and debility collide though not necessarily in negative terms. The dancers’ counterbalancing highlights the logic of human cause and effect, before spinning interdependence back into the limitless space of potentiality. Duos that merge into quartets—intimate ideas about family and community—only to eddy back into prehuman atmospheres. Precipice’s strength lies in its capacity to precipitate this odd convergence of incommensurable understandings.

The lighting (Ben Cisterne) and soundscapes (Luke Smiles) partner the dancers: together they assemble and dissemble form and traverse the space of unknowing to forge ideas, often indistinct but always compelling. Near the end of this abstract space odyssey, there is a stunning moment of disappearance, when the audience is plunged into darkness and hit by a blinding light in a single instant. The assault on sight is a little disturbing until focus returns on the stilled image of Niharika Senapati’s silhouette, black in a curved universe of light, hovering hesitantly on the edge of some unseen chasm. The light recedes, drifting slowly into the distance until only her after-image remains, a ghostly sliver wandering the cosmos. Curiously, at the same time the departure of these effervescent particles evokes the rightful place of an embodied human dancer within the overwhelming thought of cosmic infinitude. Precipice settles the universe within while turning endlessly beyond.

Precipice, choreography Rachel Ogle, performers: Storm Helmore, Tyrone Robinson, Niharika Senapati, Imanuel Dado, visual design Ben Cisterne, composer: Luke Smiles/motion laboratories, costumes Colleen Sutherland; Studio Underground, State Theatre, Perth, 21-24 Aug

RealTime issue #123 Oct-Nov 2014 pg. 26

© Maggi Phillips; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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