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March 14-16, 21-23 2008

 Da Contents H2


nalina wait: one dancer, two bodies

jane mckernan

Nalina Wait Nalina Wait
photo Heidrun Löhr
A body, all twitches and flung out limbs, creates crackling shapes against a black curtain; a body jolted into action by some unseen force, the motion constant, driven. Another body, still with eyes fixed on the wall behind us, is drained of potential movement, rooted to the floor. In the central section of this five-minute performance, Nalina Wait jump-cuts between these two bodies. There is no sense of arriving, but of having already arrived at one state or another. There are no transitions, no preparations, none of the in-between steps common to formal dance. It's all or nothing. I see two Waits, overlayed: the still and the moving.

Wait’s performance begins with her sitting on the floor, her legs outstretched and torso angled back, next to a standard lamp. She flicks it on, and begins a slow rotation of her head. The sound score evokes insects in summer heat. Wait slowly winds herself to face away from the lamp, rolls to the ground, keeping her limbs long and straight, and pulls herself back to sitting, lead by her fingertips. She sustains this taut straightness, a drag of limbs against the ground, to standing.

The soundscape cuts out and a rough, loud guitar squall takes over. The overhead arc lights individually grunt their presence, cueing Wait to break her movement. She walks directly to the audience, and stands in confronting proximity. Her gaze is out, directly over our heads. A shockwave of movement erupts, head back, elbows flung out, fingertips charged, then halts into stillness. Wait splices between these two states, on and off. The movement builds, taking over; the stillnesses contract. Wait is in and out of sync with the sound. The movement takes her backwards towards the lamp. She stops and sits. The lamp and lights flick off.

I declare my interest. I have worked with Nalina Wait over intensive periods in the last year on her new work, Dual, and have watched her dance, responded to her dance and tried her dance on. I feel familiar with the rhythm, impetus and arc of her dancing body. Yet, on first watching in this turned round position of reviewer, I feel stumped. I’m not watching the dancing body. I’m looking for grand narratives, meaning. I’m mixing up personal information with what is actually happening. The lamp evokes a domestic setting. Who is her intensely fixed stare focussed on? At whom is the twitch, jerk, coil and recoil of her movement directed?

Wait repeats her performance. I am glad of a second viewing. This time I watch the body, its tone. There is an elasticity in all her movement. In the opening passage, the skin is stretched taut, resisting an impetus or fire. I am taken by the small release of this tautness as the music changes and Wait walks forward. The centre section is also fired by this elasticity. Her limbs are flung out from her body but are always retracted, arcing back in, seeming to provide an internal engine for more movement. There is tension, not only between stillness and action, but also in the movement itself. Apart from the small moment of change in the music, it is never quite released.

This tension suggests the kind of psychological state in which Wait, post-show, declares a new interest. Her dancing body seems to evoke possibilities of emotion, while never settling on any stable reading. But the overt duality of frenetic movement and dulled stillness suggests more subtle resonances of interior/exterior and conscious/subconscious. What I find most compelling about Nalina Wait's performance is her ability to jump directly between these states.

Untitled, dancer-choreographer Nalina Wait, commissioned by RealTime & Critical Path for the DanceWrite Workshop; The Drill, March 15

© Jane McKernan; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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