Virtuosi

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Somehow I’d forgotten how much I loved Melbourne. There was always the glimmer of memory, the sparkle of well-loved times, and yet it wasn’t until I was walking back to the Victorian College of the Arts to see the showcase of Sue Healey’s new film “Virtuosi” that it hit home how good it is to be back.

Being back in my old university stirred some interesting feelings within me, and yet the most potent was the certainty that I had grown in the last four years. I felt different, bigger, ironically sensing that humility has somehow enlarged my sense of self. I was taken aback with this shift in perception; did the film do this to me, or the location? An apt thought perhaps, given Healey’s topic for conversation…

“Virtuosi” is not a film you walk out of feeling diminished. An empowering perspective, “Virtuosi” follows the pathway of eight New Zealand dancers, all of whom have flung themselves far and wide of their homeland. In this context, Healey examines how much where you are defines who you are, and how much of where you came from affects you. Stepping forward and back, side to side, these portraits of dancers are fragmented and yet whole, seeing two sides of these individuals as they talk with such pizazz and dance with honesty.

Moving with startling similarity, it was clear where individuals had come from, stating with absoluteness that where you were born and first trained affects how you move; yet we are, after all, complex beings. Their sophistication of movement had come from their adopted country, the subsequent experience of their everyday lives. In choosing to move, they changed the coating of their self, yet what lies beneath is relatable and familiar to a New Zealand landscape.

I feel it in my own bones. Definitively an Australian mover I now have a coating. The frost and nuance of England has woven its way into my stitches and become a part of how I move. It’s given me opportunity and individuality and in an art form that only really leaves one with the sense of creating your own opportunities, acknowledges the trail of where I’ve been.

If you can see this film, please do. It’s rare a film engages the optimism of art; yet this film manages to in leaps and bounds.

Choreographer/Filmmaker: Sue Healey

Composer: Mike Nock

Director of Photography: Judd Overton

Editors: Lindi Harrison and Sue Healey

Dancers: Mark Baldwin, Craig Bary, Lisa Densem, Raewyn Hill, Sarah-Jayne Howard, Jeremy Nelson, Ross McCormack and Claire O’Neil

favourites list

Friday seems like the right time for a favourites list, don’t you think? I’ve been doing lots of reading, exploring, cleaning… In celebration of getting my inbox down to ZERO emails through re-organisation, here are a few things that have been spiking my curiosity:

What I’m watching | reading

A Day in India

In preparation for my India trip, “The Darjeeling Limited” from director Wes Anderson was on the movie/inspiration list… If you’re a fan, check out his new collaboration with Roman Coppola for Prada’s fragrance Candy (starring Léa Seydoux). See all three installments of the ads back to back here – beautiful colours and carefree cake-eating abound!

For a peek at Stephanie Lake’s new work which premiered at Dance Massive: Dual

On Productivity: the internet savvy list that had me reeling (maybe this will prompt movement!)

And…

Oh.My.Goodness. Big belly laughs – so creative! – reinterpretation of “Call Me Maybe”

Have you found anything interesting lately?

the impulse to move

An improvisation class will, most often, begin by standing still and following a single instruction: wait for the impulse to move.

I’ve been waiting.

Movement seems simple. It’s everyday. But wanting to move… it’s different.

I don’t know how it is for others (tell me!), but I find it difficult to want to move when there’s so much moving around me. When I’m traveling, when I have no base, when there’s so much change in life I find myself going with it, but producing no movement internally of my own. Perhaps there’s only a certain amount of movement my person can take before it seeks an equilibrium.

This primal consideration goes against what I’ve researched of so many artists. I look at those I most admire and they suggest the practice of art as a discipline, a continual rehashing of technique and habit to bring around the inspiration to develop a concept and run with it. The balance between “inspiration” and dedication is a finely tuned one. I speak on this blog often about the importance of forming a practice: something sound and committed; but here’s the flip side.

And on the flip side I’m still standing here… waiting for the impulse to move.

RV C 72

In response to Dancehouse Diary’s question: Why Dance?

In the National Dance Forum 2013, the question on everybody’s lips is “why dance?” In response, Dancehouse Diary (Issue 4) has asked four dancers/choreographers for their ideas and observations on the issue. Martin del Amo creates a striking response:

“…Make no mistake, there is a lot to be said against it. It’s hard, it doesn’t get easier, it’s highly competitive, you don’t make any money from it, recognition is rate, promotion even rarer, it is not exactly a popular art form, it struggles to reach audiences, sustainability is difficult, longevity nearly impossible. Dance is not for the faint-hearted and the idea of dedicating one’s life to it must sound most unappealing to them.

 But for those who feel adventurous, endlessly curious, prepared to challenge themselves on an ongoing basis, develop new models of how to communicate with people, discover alternative ways of being in the world, putting their body and their entire being on the line all the time – for those, and it’s certainly true for myself the answer to the question Why Dance? Will just simple be Why Not? Only to add, empathetically: Why Not Dance!”

Why not indeed.

You know the thing that keeps me going? Apart from my own experience of the artform, I love engaging with other dancers and creatives. The endless stimulation is exciting, challenging, rewarding. The lens that is created by these people sees life as a series of amazing things – and I count myself lucky when I’m numbered among them…

Just trawling Facebook, consider some of the perspectives from my friends and colleagues:

ithatched[Dance Massive] hatching! LOL – Natalie Abbot

PrayersintheStreetlightWork: Prayers in the Streetlight – Gareth Hart as part of Canberra’s You Are Here festival. An extension of a work I witnessed when we were studying together? An intimate connection of personal experience and reflection. [photo: Sarah Walker]

benBenjamin Hancock

Interview for Stephanie Lake’s Dual

Dance Massive 2013

I was lucky enough in leaving England that I landed myself back in Oz for the creative Melbourne dance festival: Dance Massive.

Dance Massive is a biennial festival that began in 2009 and involves collaboration between three dance theatres in Melbourne: Arts House, Dancehouse and Malthouse Theatre.

In 2009, I remember a night deemed “180 seconds in (Disco) Heaven or Hell”, a performance that promised everything from a fortuneteller to a comedian. Red, sparkles and Rubix cubes flash through my memory, performances in flashy costumes that occurred in disparate locations.  It was a night I recall most by it’s engagement with the small but passionate audience that is the foundation of Australian dance in Melbourne, a party of sorts what invited those from every corner of the city.

180seconds

This year’s Massive was equally if not more impressive…. I was only able to see a selection from the last week of performances but the turnout was encouraging: there were many faces I hadn’t seen in years, and those I hadn’t seen at all.

There’s a familiarity to Australian dance – and one that is a little difficult to articulate…almost imperceptible perhaps, unless you are the one experiencing it. I’m curious to know…anyone else know what I’m talking about? It’s an aesthetic: experimental, technical and articulate. I find Australian dancers to perceive things in a less experiential way, their concepts often rigorously calculated and therefore very well verbalised (for the most part), but this causes a change in movement – whether in process or realization (or both?).

But…onto the shows…

Review: Matthew Day’s Intermission

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This work was the third in a trilogy. It may have been to my disadvantage to not have seen his previous two works, but it by no means foreshadowed my experience of this work.

The audience, taken one at a time through a corridor of large black curtains to their seats creates a sense of isolation, unease. The music and the space streamlines the audience’s perception: a cloaking of time and place. Day arrives on stage, covered head to toe in body gripping black, all except for his face, a blank expression that promises nothing.

If you were expecting grand gestures in this work, you’d be disappointed. I came to this piece expecting to be wowed and instead I was fundamentally, almost imperceptibly…shifted. Day begins to shift from foot to foot. A wave begins in his body, hypnotizing. For the next forty-five minutes, not much changes and yet this repetitive gesture never bores. The movement gradually increases and decreases in energy, space and focus. The movement and the music allow space for the audience to think, and yet remain tethered to what’s occurring on stage. This work I could describe as a meditation, and yet I was suspended in a way I rarely succeed when alone.

What’s left is a sensation. A throb, and ebb rather than elation. But creeping through oneself, this sensation is contagious.

Review: Lucy Guerin Inc: Conversation Piece

conversationpiece

I arrived, quite boldly, without a ticket, on opening night. As part of my trial of a come-what-may attitude I was enjoying the freedom of picking and choosing work’s as I could visit them. I didn’t realise how much I wanted to see this piece until I was on the second waiting list, hardly top priority of the night.

But… I made it, and I was once again impressed and excited by the work of Lucy Guerin and dancers.

Conversation Piece: comical, impulsive, and interesting began with an 8 minute conversation between three dancers. This conversation was entirely improvised and recorded on three separate iPhones covering questions of parenting, wasabi-sniffing, and tea drinking. These particular elements of conversation formed the basis to morph and develop the rest of the piece into a larger social commentary that was the backbone of the work.

In Guerin’s last work Untrained, non-dancers were offset against the professionals with movements that accepted the comedic and unifying aspects of dance. In a finely tuned navigation, Guerin was able to tap into movement as a source of enjoyment and embellishment that could have been the instigation for this newest piece treading along similar pathways. Rather than pure movement, conversation was the pivotal point, and shortly after the dancer’s finished their conversation, three actors walked in to take their place, and their conversation, reiteration the situation word for word via playback on individual phones.

The set was minimal, three rows of unassuming orange chairs that were manipulated to create sets mimicking travel, or waiting rooms. Each of the six performers on stage inhabited their own world, playing on their device and in a quirky formulaic way either interacted with one another or through a set of hanging chords broadcast new music to move to toward the audience. There was never a stationary point: conversation was the pivotal flow of understanding, relationships and audience yet verbal communication was not the sole factor. At one point a dancer and her actor (the actor communicating her third of the conversation) entered into a competition: at first movement based, and later a one-sided verbal sparring which was both clever and cutting.

I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. Themes from these original 8 minutes never grew tiresome, yet flavoured the personalities of the performers and allowed discussion, bonding, challenge and transgression. It’s a work expertly considered and cleverly reenacted.

***

Sadly, there were many shows I was unable to see in this festival, because of time and other commitments my affair with the festival was brief, but not without it’s rewards. It’s beautiful and encouraging to be back amongst talented Australian dancers, I’m beginning to see new names blossom and old morph into something increasingly supportive and helpful.

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