Ken Unsworth in collaboration with Australian Dance Artists presents, RESTRAINT(S), at the Ken Unsworth Studio, 137 Belmont St Alexandria. October 26-31.
Australian Dance Artists: Choreographers and Performers: Susan Barling, Anca Frankenhaeuser, Patrick Harding-Irmer and Ross Philip with Creative Collaborator, Norman Hall, have for the 13th time created a dance work with the participation of Australian artist Ken Unsworth who has created the Set and Installations for each of the sections of this experience in the theatre. Unique costumes by Elia Bosshard and the Lighting by Roderick van Gelder add to the vividness of the work. As well, an original score by Kate Moore, is played live by Claire Edwardes (percussion), Genevieve Lang (harp), Rowena Macneish (cello), Kristy McCahon (double bass) and Anna McMichael (violin) and gives the performance an irresistible energy and compulsive imaginative sound background to be endowed and owned by the listener.
It is, ultimately, the integration of the sculptural installations created by Ken Unsworth that becomes the life force of this work. His offers to the dancers are a provocation to igniting their creativity and skills to movement/dance solutions. Beginning with a square of elastic restraints, configured like a boxing ring, followed in the next piece by a suspended 'hoop' of possible horizontal and vertical positions, and much more throughout the night, the dancers have been configured in movement to create an immersive hour long experience - the attractive score a 'sensation'-causing aid to that unconscious 'plunge' into time suspension.
Every element of this production seems to be securely held by the willpower and concentration of all the artists/participants, The fact that all of the mechanics of this extremely complex production is all old 'fashionably' manually achieved, adds to the energy of RESTRAINT(S) and is as much choreographic in its pragmatic determinations as the dance - the backstage crew led by Chris Axelsen and Annie Winter are as much central to the work as are the dancers and musicians. The propulsive energy of the dancers, crew, musicians is the invisible seduction that captures and sustains the audience's experience of being lost in space and time.
RESTRAINT(S) is, for me, the best of this company's work that I have seen over the years. It is clean, clear and succinct in its creativity, as well as visually beautiful, and aurally mesmerising, with all the dancers featuring both as ensemble, duos and soloists throughout its schemata. The creative discipline around the installation designs from Mr Unsworth give the performers and the audience a thrilling sense of the 'live or die' element of great theatre - there is a sense that the timing of the movement/dance is spontaneous, especially as the mechanism for the movement of the various installations (wait for the 'magic' of the revolving peacock glass panels to see what I mean!) is through human effort (not Machinery), so that a great energy of improvisation and company focus is intuited by us the audience - it becomes breathtakingly exciting, unconsciously 'dangerous'. The control and the concentration of the dancers give us the confidence that all is planned, but, 'is it?' - a tantalising question to appreciate after the work is complete.
Australian Dance Artists were nominated for their past work in the Australian dance industry awards this year. They should be again with RESTRAINT(S). Why THE SYDNEY FESTIVAL have not featured this Sydney Company to expose it to a larger audience is beyond my fathoming. If you can get to it, do.
Like the Opera IL TABARRO that I saw in a food preparation space (factory) in Enmore, or the play, THE GULF*** in a warehouse, in Camperdown, RESTRAINT(S), in Alexandria, represents the ingenuity of artists combined with their god-driven necessity (disease/addiction) to perform (remember THE RED SHOES) and can give unexpected delights that have purpose, meaning and hope. Worth hunting out, in this fractured time.
It makes the City of Sydney's discussion paper: An Open and Creative City well worth knowing about, contributing too, and, perhaps, supporting.