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Omeo: 5 years of dance traffic

Erin Brannigan

Nalina Wait & Katy Macdonald, traffic Nalina Wait & Katy Macdonald, traffic
photo Heidrun Löhr
In late April, Rosalind Crisp’s Omeo Dance Studio celebrated “5 years with 5 days of dance”, a mini-festival including new work traffic and et al. (billed as “a part-y of embodied history”), a forum, and the eleventh Rushing the Sloth, a monthly improvisation event curated by Andrew Morrish.

traffic and et al. represent 2 facets of the activity that Omeo Studio has been supporting over the past 5 years. Firstly, it has provided the space and environment for Crisp’s continuing production of finely honed and consistently developing choreographic work, represented by the piece traffic. Secondly, the profile of the studio—having grown organically from Crisp’s own vision and needs as an artist—is a distinctive one within the Sydney arts scene and has become a base for dancers, choreographers and affiliated artists with shared interests. With regular classes and showings, Omeo manages to be many things to many people and this was well represented at the Saturday night, shoes off, wine guzzling party, et al.

traffic has an accumulative structure which has become a signature of Crisp’s group works for her company stella b. The economy with which this is processed (22 minutes) intensifies its structural motif both in terms of the movement of bodies in space and the composition of the choreography itself. Nalina Wait begins creating simple, clear shapes at the back of the room as if feeling her way into the space, marking out trajectories with the dimensions of her body as she goes. This is a ‘beginning’ physically written through with all it must establish. As the work intensifies with flurries, shimmers and twists replacing the carefully delineated, static poses of the opening, the driving techno score by David Corbet makes itself felt. The work suddenly takes off at this point and expires just as quickly, leaving me wondering what hit me. stella b. have taken another leap with this work, towards the concise, hard-hitting and neatly packaged.

et al. was a party with occasional performances scattered inside the studio and projected outside the windows onto Gladstone Steet. Food and wine passed around the room, Andrew Morrish hosted the evening in his disarming style, and animated conversations petered out as attentions were focused in this corner or that. I admit to not catching it all—due in equal parts to the crowds, apparently uninterruptable conversations, and a kind of general party-induced fatigue. Highlights included The Fondue Set (Emma Saunders, Jane McKernan and Elizabeth Ryan), party girls who wriggled their way through the crowd with plates of food and wine and put their duties aside for a nifty dance of combined social gestures and party moves. Fonduette McKernan presented a neat and minimal little solo before a microphone stand that evoked the sometimes fascinating gesticulations of pop singers.

Eleanor Brickhill baffled and bewitched with a comfortingly incongruous display of sleeping positions. She reappeared, rehearsing postures before a mirror manipulated by Crisp, and there was also a presentation of her writing read aloud by Morrish. It was satisfying to see Brickhill being recognised in this way for her significance as a passionate commentator on Sydney’s dance culture. Helen Clarke-Lapin showed off her always impressive contact skills with David Corbett, drawing Morrish briefly into the mix. And Nikki Heywood stole the show, shuffling into the room in a borrowed suit with plastic covers over her shoes, postulating poetically on the studio space, evoking the bodies that have worked there and making them resonate, while providing a schizo-commentary on her own performance.

Here’s to another 5 years…at least.

traffic, stella b. (Rosalind Crisp, Nalina Wait, Katy Macdonald); et al. various artists, sound design David Corbet, lighting Mark Mitchell, Omeo Dance Studio,
Sydney, April 25-27

RealTime issue #43 June-July 2001 pg. 34

© Erin Brannigan; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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