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Bodyworks: dance constructions

Philipa Rothfield: Dancehouse, Bodyworks

Philipa Rothfield is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at La Trobe University. She is also Chairperson of Dancehouse’s Board of Management.

Eme Suzuki, Fragment for Children
Eme Suzuki, Fragment for Children

Not only do people move in very different ways, their choreographic construction methods and priorities are also quite diverse. Phillip Adams’ Ending #1—part of a major work-to-be, shown in its infancy—afforded a forensic perspective on constructing dance. Whilst some might build a piece through the development of movement, Adams appears to work with an almost fetishistic use of objects, a strong musical presence and an enduring commitment to design, that is, the look of the piece.

Ending #1 begins with a toy plane wiggling along fishing wire the depth of the stage, to the sound of Ligeti’s signature piece for Kubrick’s 2001, A Space Odyssey. Whilst the music suggested an event of great moment, the plane looked absurd in its precarious journey towards the back of the room. A similar tribute to the object occurred when a glow-in-the-dark toy was reverently studied by the performers, then wobbled towards the ceiling.

I had a sense that the movement in Ending #1 was not developed anew but drew upon a now-familiar kinaesthetic which Adams recalls and reworks to fill in the spaces. Adams and Toby Mills danced about in g-strings with fox furs draped around their necks, whilst Brooke Stamp seemed to hang about onstage most of the time—until Adams and Mills enjoined her in a trio which looked faintly pornographic, suggestively lit by a bare light bulb swinging back and forth. I found the piece pretty witty despite its state of choreographic undress. Supposedly about extinction (God knows how that entered this version apart from the dead foxes, and a luminous dinosaur), Ending #1 signals a beginning rather than an ending. I look forward to its evolution.

The second half of Bodyworks Program 3 included performances by 2 Japanese artists, Masami Yurabe and Eme Suzuki. A striking feature of both pieces was the way in which neither drew upon any familiar lexicon of movement. Developed and repeated in a series of poignant movements, Suzuki’s Fragment for Children was very clear, simple yet powerful, her kinaesthetic persona a young girl facing life, dealing with the world in emotional terms. Beginning tentatively, expressing fear and anxiety, the work finished with a series of bows that presented a self at peace. Suzuki’s sincerity and commitment to her theme gave the work its dignity.

Yurabe’s Witness was a very different kind of work, less personal, subject to greater change. Witness begins and ends with a chair. The start was almost clownish but, by the end, the chair became less of a prop and more an object of existential moment. Yurabe’s movement was also quite variable. From comic, anarchic interaction with the chair as a means to enter the performative space, the movement took on a more dancerly character. There was an incredible elegance about his body in motion, also a presence and aliveness which suggested a degree of improvisation. The program notes mention improvised Butoh performance. I felt by the end that I would like to see other works by Yurabe; he has a performative edge that could go many places.

Bodyworks, Program 3, Dancehouse, Melbourne, Feb 20-24

Philipa Rothfield is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at La Trobe University. She is also Chairperson of Dancehouse’s Board of Management.

RealTime issue #48 April-May 2002 pg. 29

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

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