Monday, August 18, 2008
SYDNEY DANCE COMPANY in 360 (degrees) in a World Premiere Season at Carriageworks, Sydney.
It has been a few days since I attended this performance. The longer I distance myself from the experience the more I have come to admire it. This was definitely a Contemporary Dance experience. CONTEMPORARY writ large.
In the huge space of the Carriageworks building, and taking some inspiration from the history of the building itself, the performance begins with a cacophonous soundtrack of a Diesel train hauling nosily what seems to be a long transport of carriages. The noise of the engine, the clanging on the tracks and the warning siren of the engine hooting out through the theatre in stereophonic manipulation, crossed faded in and out with helicopter rotors, the modern age of man and his machines are heralded. The rest of the Music for the performance is high tech, across a broad spectrum of styles but dominated with contemporary edge from the lyrical CANTIGA DE AMIGO V: QUATAS SABEDES AMARE (COME, MAIDS WHO LOVE), to the electronic/glitch work of Murcof and the sounds of a group called Foetus playing work composed by J.G.Thirwell that is broadcast at a vibrating level. (Sound Design George Gorga.)
The Production and Costume Design (Tony Assness) and the Lighting Design (Hugh Taranto) are work created by artists that have a vast experience in large events in a wide variety of disciplines. There is a sense of Industrial scale about the work. There is a very large projection screen covering the back wall of the space, wide and tall that projects (from two cameras, seamlessly) huge images some in black and white, some in colour, of billowing clouds, rough ocean waves, goldfish in a bowl, exotic flower blooms/orchids (and other) with finally a sped up hurtle through underground traffic tunnels with their gleaming gloss tiles, latterly warped with digital manipulation that have feint references, for me, of the time warp of some of the Kubrick SPACE ODYSSEY 2001 final journey into time. In front of the screen to start with a two huge mirrors hung at V-shape wedge that gradually open up during the performance towards the wings. The floor is just black tarquette. The lighting is very affective from the cool/cold industrial to blankets of warmth. Isolating spots as well as wide coverage for the dance corps reflected many times over (depending where you are sitting) in the mirrors. This is Event lighting. Vast and Detailed as required. It also interacts with us: intensely glowing and pulsing into the audience auditorium. The costumes begin with voyeuristic flesh coloured skimp, add a long sleeved white open shirt, to a dance suit that may suggest large blue tribal tattoo.
The choreography by guest artist RAFAEL BONACHELA is dynamic. The Sydney Dance Company are Athletes, Gymnasts, Contortionists (body manipulators) Synchronised movers and soloists finally, Contemporary Dancers. Dancers of extraordinary skill and commitment. This is the best that I have seen from this company for some time. Precise and vital. (It was a come down to go home and watch the relative tameness of the Olympic Gymnasts at the Beijing Games.)
The final sequences with the incredible "tunnel" video, the loud (Very) sound of the Foetus tracks that literally vibrated the auditorium, the growing intensity of the choreography turned the work into an interactive experience. It was an almighty visceral shake down. I over heard a few patrons when exiting suggesting that with a few good drugs the experience would definitely have been further enhanced.
While watching it I felt oddly disconnected. It had a coldness about it that had me watching as an objective observer. But, as I mentioned at the top of this, I have become more enamoured of it as time as passed. Admiration for a very sophisticated piece of theatre. I will remember it well.
Prior to the major work there was a small work in what is called THE OVERTURE SERIES: Shaun Parker’s LOVE INSTALLMENT. The choreographer talks of it as "31 hours of investigation of dealing with the topic of love and desire inspired by elements of Euripides Greek myth MEDEA." There was nothing arresting here and the only reference I had to MEDEA while watching the work was reading about it in the program. This was fairly dull. The best part of it was the live music composed and played by Nick Wales, accompanied by Bree Van Reyk. The promenade set of raised platforms in the foyer were a divertissement. As I attended other performances in the building over the past weeks I got to watch this piece three times. It just never got interesting. Neither new or very inventive. Fairly tame and clichéd.