SYDNEY DANCE COMPANY in SID’S WALTZING MASQUERADE, a World Premiere Season at CARRIAGEWORKS, Sydney.
This is the final work of the Sydney Dance Company in 2008. An intermediary year of three choreographers working with the dancers whilst in the hiatus of searching for a new Artistic leader. I personally feel the company has benefited much from the input and experience of the three guest choreographers: Meryl Tankard, Rafael Bonachela and now Aszure Barton.
This work has the feel of a deliberate choice that is as opposite to The Bonachela as possible. The Bonachela 360 Degrees was bombastically contemporary in every area of creativity. It’s stature has grown for me over time and is even further appreciated after this work. If the Bonachela was an example of the trend of contemporary Brutalism in performance art, then this work is Fairy Floss.
The stage area has been converted, Designed, (Gerard Manion) into a proscenium style space, even with a red velvet front curtain. The work has a pre-blurb in the program “SID’S WALTZING MASQUERADE IS A ROUSIN’, CAROUSIN’ ADVENTURE OF A GUY & HIS GANG… IT’S GOING TO BE HEAVEN.” The work begins with Bradley Chatfield been flown in from the flies, (presumably the GUY) in front of the curtain, on a chair, lip synching, sometimes to a song. He gets out of the chair and after a preamble dance, the curtains peel open to a drearily designed space. It has the dance wings on either side and has a full width rising staircase from off prompt to prompt (probably going to heaven.) across the back. They are very high risers and they are, like the wing maskers, black. After the imaginative use of all the elements of set design in the Bonachela work (Set pieces and digital and film techniques, this work looks as if it has suffered, as it seems it has had no budget to execute, even well. The floor is a white tarquet. If the set is to be so ugly and really, antithetical, to the spirit of the work, one presumes that the lighting will compensate and create the atmosphere of what seems to be a work that is intended as an end of year frolic of fun, in contrast to the rest of the season. Unfortunately, Trudy Dalgleish fails to keep us delighted with lighting, that is only sporadically interesting or beautiful. The costumes by a “fashionista” Michelle Jank are truly disastrous. Not only are they ugly on the dancers, particularly for the women, but they do not look as if they are very conducive to dance in. The male costumes are just unimaginative and dreary. The program notes tells us that Michelle Jank is attempting her first foray into costume design. (and they should be read to be believed that this is not some glossy magazine hype of a fashion figure rather than notes of a serious artist of the theatre. I paid $15 dollars to read such aggravating twaddle and spin. I could have bought a novel for that price or a better informed fashion magazine. What are the Marketing and/or the Publicity people doing in allowing this to be part of the statement on the work? Or is it doing what they want, some kind of groovy fame by association with a trendy fashion industry figure? How COOL is this company to have Michelle Jank design our costumes!!!! The photographs throughout the Program look like a fashion spread for Michelle Janks’ clothing, for I found it hard to recognise a single costume on stage from the images in the program, except for the men, maybe. I could list of a number of theatre/dance designers that would be very interested to work for this prestigious company.) The Sound design (George Gorga) is mostly just recordings of other people’s work and engineered for the space. In contrast to the dynamic invention of a similar task in the Bonachela work it is very uninspired and underwhelming. The program notes suggest that this combination of Design team “would produce a remarkable fusion of design ideas.” Well, it is remarkable, chiefly, for its aesthetic failure.
So all in all Ms Barton does not seem to have as a creative handle on all the elements of the theatre as it was, amazingly so, from Mr Bonachela. It was a comparative disappointment.
Now I am no expert, but what about the dance? Well, my impression is that Ms Barton has worked with each of the dancers and has “become fascinated with the history and inner life and eccentricities of the artists……I am,” Ms Barton states, “striving to bring their talents forward” Well, if slapping each other over the head, putting your fist in your mouth (which might be a suitable image for this work), or discovering the physical peculiarities of the dancers, such as an ability to rotate one’s head extraordinarily above one’s shoulders and repeating that gesture ad-nauseam, is bringing these dancers talents to the fore, it may not be enough. The work seemed to be made up of bits and pieces that ended up being itsy bitsy and added up to fairy floss. The work was almost an hour long and maybe there was a twenty minute piece here. The choreography began well with a Spring feel of breadth and width and cheeky naughtiness, the music seemed to be fun and promising in its choices, but gradually the work was ground down to repetitions and humour that was progressively tiresome because it was repetitive. The music, finally, just a collated list of somebodies favourite tunes. There did not seem to be any strong choreographic structure to the piece, just “lets do this next”. It led to stops and restarts. There was no evolution of form or narrative or anything much. I was bored by the end. The woman behind me refused even to applause. Her companion, and later I, berated her to at least acknowledge the effort of the dancers work.
Well, the dancers were at least athletic and displayed stamina. But mostly the work was fairly undisciplined and lacked care (again in contrast to the focus and committed effort of the last work). Now, Chen Wen may be a find, but unless somebody takes him to task and suggest that his speed and what looks like Peking opera acrobatics are not enough, that bodyline and dance finish might be included in the execution, then the audience may soon tire of him – a flash of surprise but not much to sustain us beyond that. There is no artistic care just ego flair in my reaction to Mr Wen’s offers. I did enjoy the work of Reed Luplau very much, but, still, enthusiasm or carelessness was also present that detracted from the overall impression. The guest artist and assistant to Ms Barton, Ian Robinson, was also interesting to watch. Maybe it is difficult to ensure the quality of the dancing if you are also featured as a dancer in the work?
This work if re-designed (scrap the set and especially the costumes) and refined to a twenty minute piece, might result in a great support divertissement to the contemporary thrill of 360Degrees, if the company toured this work. Otherwise thanks for the promise of a “ROUSIN’,CAROUSIN’ ADVENTURE”. It is a pity it didn’t work out this time. Certainly it was well short of your target: HEAVEN.
The Overture Series in the foyer of the CARRIAGEWORKS by Reed Luplau called GO was certainly more interesting and promising than the last one by Shaun Parker. The solo dances, duets, trios and quartets were choreographically evolving and involving. The dancers were well used. The biggest problem is the height of the platform that the piece was executed on. It was too low for a standing audience. Most of us had only obstructed views. Mr Luplau certainly should feel encouraged by his work effort.
Playing now until 25 October. Book online or call Ticketmaster on 136100.