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Alana Everett, Lauren Langlois, Rennie McDougall, Lily Paskas, Lee Serle, A Small Prometheus Alana Everett, Lauren Langlois, Rennie McDougall, Lily Paskas, Lee Serle, A Small Prometheus
photo Jodie Hutchinson
The beginnings of a dance work, or any project for that matter, may be happenstance. A match is struck: the spark of an idea flashes, catches, gently glimmers and grows. Eighteen months later, five dark figures cluster around three metal sculptures, methodically lighting a circle of candles. The heat created by their combined candlepower causes a circular propeller to spin, gently pinging and sounding as it revolves. This is an altar to the power and beauty of fire, a ritualistic beginning, which transforms heat into movement.

Kinaesthetically, much the same happens. Bodies roll, push, pull, crawl, arch and twist into sitting and standing. Five dancers line up along a diagonal; runners at the starting line. There is a kind of pause, an in-breath before the dancing begins. The work is poised before its own future. We know that A Small Prometheus is about fire but, given this is not a narrative, how does the idea of fire meld into movement? Stephanie Lake’s treatment of her topic merges with the musical input of her collaborative partner, Robin Fox. Billed as a joint creative venture, we find the music playing an equal, sometimes dominant, role in the work. Mostly this enhances the quality of the dancing but sometimes eclipses it. While all dance to music needs to determine its relation to the music, the nature of this collaboration raised the status of the sound. If the music takes the lead, the challenge is to take up its stimulus without surrendering to it, to make the sum greater than its parts.

A Small Prometheus consists of a series of responses to its theme. It offers a kinaesthetic poetics of fire played out in the body. For example, impulses work their way through the dancers’ bodies which jerk at speed. Each body has its own way of enacting these qualities. Lily Paskas rips through space without pause for thought. Sometimes the dancers are dancers, forming duets, circles, lines, hoisting bodies, lifting legs. Other times, their bodies are a staging ground for actions that reflect ideas of fire, heat, light or convection.

As this dance is performed, bushfires rage in the Blue Mountains, destroying hearth and home with a fearsome intensity. The dancers stage a form of collapse in their bodies. There is less sense of danger here however, for the group hovers, ready to catch them. Rennie McDougal performs an interesting solo with elements of collapse and support within his own body rather than in partnership with the group.

Returning to ritual, four dancers sit in front of large ashtrays, striking matches in time to the sound. These simple relations between light and sound are mesmerising to watch, an aesthetic form of child’s play.

At some point well into the piece, the choreography really took off, in terms of flow, intensity and energy. It would have been wonderful to see the entire piece operate at this level. This is probably a question of time and resources, to be able to dwell with the choreography, edit, rework and polish. Another iteration of this piece-—a phoenix perhaps—might consider the coherence of its parts, the relation between its sections, and to the theme as a whole, moving beyond an episodic feel to some other sense of structure or interrelationship between the various thematic moments.

A Small Prometheus, creators Stephanie Lake and Robin Fox, choreographer Stephanie Lake, composer, sculpture designer Robin Fox, performers Alana Everett, Lauren Langlois, Rennie McDougall, Lily Paskas, Lee Serle; Arts House, Melbourne, 15-20 October

RealTime issue #118 Dec-Jan 2013 pg. 31

© Philipa Rothfield; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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