fortyfivedownstairs - Flinders Lane, Melbourne
December 4, 2008 (until Dec 14 - get along if you can. Tickets from www.fortyfivedownstairs.com )
Shelley Lasica’s years of experience as a choreographer are clearly evident in her latest creation, Vianne. It’s a complex, beautiful, subtle piece supported by excellent contributions from a very talented group of artists.
The space is sparsely adorned with Anne-Marie May’s clear plastic sculptures. One resembling a water fountain hangs at the rear of the space (pictured), while an open-sided cube is raised on ropes halfway through the performance. Ben Cobham’s lighting design is similarly pared back, using only bare globes and lights placed outside the building, which shine through the exposed, arched windows onto the naked walls.
The five dancers wear glittering, hooded jumpsuits and small, sparkly false eyelashes, designed by Lasica and Kara Baker for PROJECT. Upon entering, their very first movement sequence appears totally abstract, like a series of May’s sculptures gently moving in the breeze. But gradually, more personal touches emerge. They communicate with each other through tiny fragments of conversation, a nod, a pointed glance, a gesture, at times seeming to be in rehearsal, learning and practicing the movement phrases together.
The mix of abstract and literal content continues as the dancers splinter away into distinct solos or coalesce into a unified group, using a movement palette which varies from the smallest shift of the eyes to energetic limb thrashing. Each dancer has a unique ‘voice’, often performing idiosyncratic phrases that, particularly in the case of Jo Lloyd, are clearly identifiable as being drawn directly from the dancer.
In one powerful moment, the three women, Lloyd, Deanne Butterworth, and Bonnie Paskas, slowly straighten their knees from a deep bend in unison. It’s the simplest of movements, yet their intense focus makes it seem profound.
At another point, Butterworth seems to make time run backwards as she repeats a fast, flicking walk that looks as though it’s being played in reverse. Hers could be the central character, the only one dressed in orange (rather than brown), often regarding the action with a half-smile.
A brilliantly timed duet for she and Lloyd evokes a sense of interdependency and friendship, like a physical history of their relationship. Other interactions with the men, Tim Harvey and Lee Serle are almost sensual, but could equally be read in platonic terms.
The beauty of the work is its ambiguity. It could be viewed as a narrative about personal relationships and memory, or simply for the aesthetics of the spatial design.
The excellent structure of the piece is augmented by the ever-present music, an electronic composition by Milo Kossowski and Morgan McWaters for PEACE OUT !, which fits perfectly with the action on stage. It’s reminiscent of a ballet score in the way that the many short tracks serve to delineate the different sections of the choreography.
The end result is a harmonious combination of all the elements into a mysterious yet unified whole, satisfying yet open to interpretation.
An abridged version of this review was published in The Age newspaper.
Want to read more? here's another review at mono no aware