Sunday, May 22, 2011
Sydney Theatre & Chunky Move present CONNECTED at the Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay.
Gideon Obarzanek, Director and Choreographer of CONNECTED, has collaborated with American artist, Reuben Margolin, in developing a large scale undulating installation/sculpture which could interact with dancers.
"In previous works such as GLOW and MORTAL ENGINE it has been through the video graphics generated by the movements of the dancers and then projected back onto and around their bodies. Here in CONNECTED this relationship continues, but with early mechanical technology - intricately linked simple materials such as string, paper and wood literally connected to the dancers by fine strings. ... Until CONNECTED Reuben's sculptures have existed as installations in galleries in a perpetual but constant state. While this gives his constellation-like objects a uniquely mesmerizing quality, the biggest challenge in this project was to find a relationship between dancers and sculpture that could develop as a time arc within a performance event rather than a fixed singular connection".
Using Mr Margolin's beautiful machine/sculpture, with lighting by Benjamin Cisterne of great sensitivity and beauty, accompanied by an inspiring sound score by Oren Ambarchi and Robin Fox, five dancers: Stephanie Lake, Alisdair Macindoe, Marnie Palomares, Harriet Ritchie and Joseph Simons are intricately addressed in independent and then eventual connected choreography with the Margolin machine.
The dancers mostly are moved in low level, ground hugging, physical gyrations - each artist investigating and embracing the capacities of their individual range of expression that collides into connected impulse of one -on -one and group patterns, gradually being discreetly connected, to the strings of the mechanism of the sculpture. It is when the artists are harnessed to the machine and affect it into action- movement that the true magic of the theatre occurs. Sculpture,lighting, sound and movement all transcending the theatre spatial usualness into an imaginative leap to a realm of ethereal magical power. The first thirty minutes of this work build into a positively thrilling act of extraordinary fascination.
In an act of dis-connection the dancers, next , appear dressed as gallery security attendants. Moving with recognisable and everyday bodies and 'gesture', using recorded voice, we enter the world of the disengaged everyday security keepers of art. The sculpture no longer connected to the dancers, running on the loop of a mechanical engine. We are told 'stuff' and then asked to answer the question "What is art?" and then given various possibilities by pre-recorded actor voices: it is art because it is by someone famous and/or it cost the gallery a heap of money. Later, these disconnected guardians of art evolve into dancers from the waist down, and yet still hold their uniform from the waist up and finish another set of movement at low level gestural exploration, to end laying flat on the floor, as the sculpture is lowered to hover above them or crush them.
This second half of the work is the controversial part of the piece, for some it has no connection to the first half and is a kind of pedestrian, tacked on 'essay', unnecessary, and seemingly there to extend the work to a full hour duration (cynical, indeed). A thirty-minute show might not be acceptable to the paying public (true, perhaps, those of us that have had to earn the $60 required to experience this dance may have felt so. Cynical, again). Much like Mr G.B. Shaw who felt the cost of his play publications could not be justified with just the play so he would write, not always connected forward essays or prefaces, to bulk out the book. This is what some of my audience felt about the second half of CONNECTED. It was bulking out an already beautiful piece of art. I thought the final dance sequence was an attempt to knit the work back into a whole but felt the first thirty minutes would be all I would want, if i were to see it again.