Sunday, July 19, 2009


I reviewed Balletlab's production Miracle for The Age, and have posted that review below. It feels terribly insubstantial given the enormity of the piece, but nevertheless, this is what I came up with given the constraints of time and space. Were I reviewing it with unlimited words and time for reflection, my response may have been slightly different...

For those who missed the show, Martyn Coutts' blog post gives a great version of what it was like to be in the audience: click here to read his post

Miracle by Balletlab

Choreographed by Phillip Adams, performed by Brooke Stamp, Luke George, Kyle Kremerskothen and Clair Peters

July 15, 2009

Arts House, Meat Market, Melbourne

For what seems like an age, four dancers stand in silence beneath the heavenly atmosphere of a gently drifting haze. When they finally charge forward, their screaming voices amplified and distorted, it becomes immediately clear that this is not going to be a comfortable theatrical experience.

Choreographed and directed by Phillip Adams, Miracle is equal parts performance art and sound installation, broken into three distinct sections.

The first is something like a dance of ecstasy, a choreographed meditation or prayer using almost entirely pedestrian movement. With ankle-length robes trailing, the well-rehearsed dancers tread a crisscross pattern, pulsating and gagging on the enormity of their brush with divinity, contributing to the piercing soundscape with harsh vocalisations.

Part Two takes place within an abstracted cult compound, replete with strange rituals, blasting megaphones and wooden clogs. Amongst an endless feedback loop of voices and resonant strings engineered by composers David Chisholm and Myles Mumford, both transcendence and domination are explored in repetitive physical patterns. The rhythmic thwack of coiled extension leads across naked torsos has a hypnotic effect, though a seamless quartet of swooping falls and spiralling lifts is one of the only pure dance sequences.

There’s a touch of absurd humour in the final segment, a rocket-ship ride past a crazily gesticulating astronaut and gracefully orbiting heavenly bodies which leaves the stage strewn with discarded harmonicas and tambourines. The surprising and fabulous illusion in the closing moments is accompanied by ultra-loud, brassy notes which drown out the mumblings of the pair wrapped in saffron silk.

Toni Maticevski’s evocative costumes are perfectly suited and the drenching sound is totally appropriate, yet it’s hard to get inside Miracle. The long and repetitive sequences en route to rapture are exhausting to watch, but don’t incite the sympathetic ecstasy required to lift the piece beyond experimentation.

First published in The Age newspaper

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