Choreography by Narelle Benjamin, performed by Paul White and Kristina Chan
CUB Malthouse, Melbourne
March 16, 2011
As part of Dance Massive
Paul White and Kristina Chan are EASILY two of the best dancers in Australia, but In Glass isn’t the masterpiece it could be.
Unlike Meryl Tankard’s The Oracle, which was also custom built for White, In Glass doesn’t build an overall sense of character for the performers to inhabit. There are glimpses of brilliance, when choreography, cinematography and production design meet in glorious moments of liquefied reality, but then the limits of Benjamin’s choreographic language intervene again and the sublime possibilities are lost.
Benjamin does exploit the extraordinary physical abilities of her dancers, and it’s hard to deny the pleasure of being amazed at the capacity of the highly trained human body.
Her yoga-infused choreography requires hamstrings to stretch beyond any kind of normal range, combined with headstands, lots of manipulation and that ‘stand/sit still and make gestures with your hands’ idea that often crops up in contemporary dance.
Chan often appears to be tying herself in knots, or bourréeing with arms almost outstretched, in something like a Jesus Christ pose. Her solo with a projected mirror suggests body image is the theme, but the dance has trouble communicating that concept – it appears much like any of the other movement sequences.
White has a solo comprised of spins. Wearing a slippery long-sleeved top and leggings, he spirals on knees, thighs, biceps, almost all surfaces of his body, but again, doesn’t quite reach the same heights of virtuosity as in the Oracle. Another solo makes great use of two large hand held mirrors, which he moves around his head, becoming a Narcissus, using facial expressions to finally create some sense of the existence of a character.
The contact duo section is divine, a whirlwind of momentum-driven lifts, spirals and counterbalances that embody all a modern duet can and should be.
The set and lighting design and cinematography/video projection work is integral to the piece, which is great to see. Synaesthesia! One moment which really stood out was when Chan walked between two mirrors, appearing to enter the world on the other side of the glass. When White tried to follow, the mirror suddenly became an opaque wall again. Brilliant timing meant that this simple trick took my breath away.
For the life of me I can’t remember a single thing about the sound.
Despite my griping about the faults in this work, it is still a very exciting experience. A great concept, well developed and presented, just lacking that final step into dance as theatre, rather than just a gymnastic display.