Martin Del Amo’s CHAMPIONS

“Dancers are the cleverest with their feet, next are footballers.” Johan Cruyff, soccer legend

Have you ever been in turmoil when understanding the distinction between dance and sport? If you have, this work will either confuse you further, help affirm your decision, or alternatively, like myself – raise that annoying question yet again.

Last night, Carriageworks hosted the opening night of the compelling and witty contemporary dance performance Champions, directed by Martin Del Amo and supported by FORM dance projects. The performance is showcased as a part of Sydney Festival, and is a dense work that draws similarities between the athleticism and practice of soccer and dance. While Champions did not include any grand kicks of soccer balls, the work had it all; the performer bio displayed on the big sports screens, the backstage interviews by Channel 7 sports presenter Mel McLaughlin, and warm up – inclusive of sports commentary, the strategy talks, the intense group concentration, the competition, not to mention the typical sporting gear, the wins, falls and losses of the game, and even the fake grass. Yet the performance had a lot of quirk, which I felt was presented through the blatant honesty of the show.

For me, this work held a mirror up at both dance and soccer, and satirized them both through the deliberate sports/dance-fusion commentary, sound, script and movement. From a tutu’d duck mascot plodding out swan lake repertoire, to the performer’s bio, too quick to fully catch but listing every detail of their life, including number of injuries, cup size and favourite pastime, to Carlee Mellow’s response to the replayed falls in slo-mo “ah yeah that wasn’t a mistake, that was choreographed. All planned.” While this was humorous, the work also confronted a more serious issue in the sporting world; gender inequality. This segment of the piece was beautifully tied in as each performer was tossed pompoms. And while shifting between various stances, a voice over fed the audience some eyebrow raising questions and facts. Such as, how is it okay for women to punch each other in boxing tournaments yet men can’t compete in rhythmic gymnastics? How is it that women’s soccer (e.g. the Matilda’s vs the Socceroos) is so much more underpaid than men’s? The matters raised aren’t new to performance, however I feel there are never enough ways to use art to focus on issues like this in society.

I wish that I could take the choreography in my hand and mash it into the face of my old sports coach who was an avid football fan and had no appreciation for anything other, or anyone who shared similar views. Yes, dance can collide with soccer. champions-photobyheidrunlohr

In regards to the initial question, this work solidified my views on dance as an art form. Sure, it can be analysed and assessed through the degrees of artistry, stamina, coordination and musicality, however unlike sport, dance can bring to light so much more. It can be comical, draw emotion, be challenging to perceive and it can make you think, and inspire you in ways that aren’t purely aesthetic. Champions is a must see, it kicked me in the face with witticisms and juicy movement. The performances run from the 17th to the 22nd of Jan at Carriageworks – get amongst.

Advertisements

Sue Healey’s EN ROUTE

sue-healey-en-route.jpg
Figure 1. Eveleigh

Well done NSW transport. Finally a good decision that the government has made – to display an incredibly immersing dance film that features a broad spectrum of dancers amongst diverse train lines across NSW at Wynyard Station (the Wynscreen). Tonight, an equally dance-craze friend and I decided to catch up for dinner and watch EN ROUTE, choreographed and directed by Australian dance film artist, Sue Healey. Little did we know, that she as well as most of the performers in this film were also planning to see their beautiful work at that time – on that night.

Where to begin! After watching this and now reflecting on it – I feel like my heart is going to burst out of my skin in the raw excitement and inspiration I’m feeling towards this (so cheesy I know!). But finally, a chance for any Sydney-sider, on their way to work, in their heels, clacking off to do business in the peak hour commute, to have a moment of complete refreshing peace, represented through movement and film. I’m so excited to be one of those commuters and walk past this with the fear that I might not actually make it to work on time.

The film itself was a panoramic display of any means of traversing, on route to an unknown location, and it was captured so well that it was almost palpable. In the thirty minutes of footage there were excerpts of daily routine morphed into a visceral journey to unexplored territory. Each dancing individual (ages ranging from 3 years old to 102) had a quality of movement that weaved into shapes and lines that entirely suited the architectural structure of their surroundings. And the scenery! Who knew that NSW had such beautiful greenery! (See figure 2.)

IMG_8101 copy.jpg
Figure 2. Helensburgh

 

In addition to this, Healey beautifully contrasted the footage with scenes of disused train lines in the countryside of Bombala, adding to the rich palate of territory. It was compelling to watch as the dancers performed pedestrian movement amongst deserted train tracks or large, dynamic movement that engulfed and complimented the environment. It is difficult to pin point a favourite scene – and I’m sure the more times I watch it the more indecisive I’ll be, but the lonesome Jincumbilly train station and the stunning whirls that Nalina Wait performed with her ridiculously large and beautiful skirt took the cake.

If you by any chance happen to be in the city, or take the train from Wynyard, it is definitely worth a stop to gaze longingly at this film. En Route will loop until FEB 2017, alternating AM and PM with another film. Unfortunately there is not much advertising on when exactly it will be on show. I recommend going as frequently as you can, because you are guaranteed to be inspired, whether it be to dance, travel, film-make or see art.

Production Credits: 

  • Director and Editor: Sue Healey
  • Director of Photography: Judd Overton
  • Producer: Pippa Bailey, Performing Lines
  • Camera Assistant: Matt Chow
  • Film crew: The Graffer
  • Costume Design Assistant: Ella Lincoln
  • Film Assistant: Jacob Edmonds
  • Technical Advisor: Hai Tran
  • Performers: Don Asker, James Batchelor, Elizabeth Dalman, Jacob Edmonds, Anca Frankenhaeuser, Ghenoa Gela, Patrick Harding-Irmer, Lisa Griffiths, Raghav Handa, Kei Ikeda, Eileen Kramer, Nalina Wait, with children Barnaby Scott, Aiya Ting, Marina Seet, Leila Karlsen, Poppy Synnott
FullSizeRender copy.jpg
Figure 3. Eileen Kramer, aged 102 in screen and in life, dancing with director Sue Healey

 

 

 

‘Untamed’ and the works of Sydney Dance Company

untamed

Okay. Been a while I know but I have a bit to say in this post. Over the past 4 months, during my dance dry spell and complete neglect of writing, I’ve managed to bottle up a lot of post-dance frustration which exploded after finally seeing Untamed performed by Sydney Dance Company.  The show consisted of two works, the first half choreographed by Gabrielle Nankivell – Wildebeest – which is a revisited work created in 2014 for SDC’s NewBreed, and the second half of the show featured Rafael Bonachela’s (Artistic Director of SDC) –Anima. To be honest, I can’t really comment on the show as a whole, so here is an interpretation of both performances singularly.

Wildebeest began in darkness with an eerie dialogue. We were thrown into the imaginative role, and the atmospheric sounds in accordance to the whispery voice made me envisage being in a mythical realm before human interference. I was a bit uncomfortable as it felt like the opening of Twilight, but I began to enjoy the sounds of circling storms surrounding me. Amongst the darkness appeared this incredible dancer who can isolate and contort like no tomorrow, creating this tentacly, insect-like, vulnerable predator. The performance progressed into a group of ‘beasts’ interacting in fast-paced aggressive leaps and lifts. I really enjoyed the transformation into the second half as all of the dancers made a shift to mechanical and organised movement, working simultaneously with the music. They appeared as the fast shifting cogs in clockwork – structurally triggering another cog to move. It was really incredible to watch as a whole and looked futuristic. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the bass drops. The music, composed by Luke Smiles, really took on part of the narrative and focused on embellishing the intention of the work.  It was exciting to really see and hear the contrast from the bestial to the skrillex-like performance. Despite the evident contrast, I think that Nankivell’s choreography showed the similarities between both forms, in that they are so complex that they have a mind of their own, are uncontrollable and are, inevitably, ‘untamed’. I really enjoyed it. Kudos.

Anima, Beautiful. Stunning. Mesmerising. I am always impressed by the phenomenal strength of the dancers in SDC and inspired by the beauty of their ability and control. I can’t leave a choreography of his without wanting to dance. In saying that however, Anima would have been my fourth Bonechela choreography that I’ve seen and I can’t really differentiate the four – apart from the change of staging/costume. It’s as though he follows a cookie cutter strategy, and I was crossing my fingers and toes that it wouldn’t consist of music that was heavily strings orientated, or had four decipherable sections in the performance (1. the small, structured group, 2. the large full ensemble, 3. the sentimental duo and 4. the full company performing in four lines of synchronous and large movement). But alas, that’s exactly what he laid on the table. I understand that these performances are to be toured around the world and are to leave a beautiful, impressive print on the audience’s mind, but Sydney Dance Company is NSW’s leading contemporary dance company. And coming from a dancing background, where I’m looking for innovative work that will challenge pre-existing knowledge, I’m a little underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, the choreography is beautiful and well mapped out into complex sequences, but I think of it as neoclassical contemporary, and as such it keeps Sydney contemporary dance in non-explored territory – confined in the conventional, and stuck in the rut of the past.

Resonance with Brianna Kell

Over the past two weeks I have been part of a wonderful choreographic lab with an incredible dancer, choreographer and all round top human being Brianna Kell, who was looking for 5 dancers to be part of her experimentation. The choreographic lab was situated in Shopfront Theatre for Young People and was organised through a NSW dance organisation called DirtyFeet.

brianna kell forehead

Kell’s experimentation centres around the concept of resonance, physically and aurally. The process of finding that resonance was organised in practice through various improvisational tasks and sequences. Resonance can appear in many shapes and forms and consequently we had hours upon hours of awesome material that could be archived for Kell’s experimentation. I was amongst 4-6 other dancers during that time and we were given a little window into a day in the life of Brianna Kell. If I was to describe all of the tasks you would be here for days and this blog would turn into a thesis, which I could gladly do in the spirit of reminiscing, instead I’ll pluck out a few which really connected with me and I’ll try and explain my experiences of them in good old dot point format.

  1. Rag doll – one person would stand, eyes closed, ready to be manipulated around the space by the rest of the group. In this time the dancer in the centre would relax and be pulled, curled, lifted and dragged, limb by limb, in a nurturing and safe physicality. Being in this circle where unknown limbs moved your elbow, head, hips and legs, I felt like a soup being stirred or churned and it’s a really nice way to warm up.
  2. Forehead discovery – in pairs we would take turns to guide a partner across the space just using our hand against their forehead. To read the small instructions given by a hand isn’t as easy as it sounds – and the concentration/submission to the hand became something very meditative both viewing it and participating in it. The pair would then separate and the receiver of the instructions would then dance from the memory of the hand.
  3. Monster organism – involved contact improvisation in a tight, huddled group, allowing for little gaps to be present. The five of us were to slowly seek new surfaces where we could put weight on and fold into or be carried across from one location to another. Being in this movement was very heavy and warming – I found that 5 bodies melded into one and my limbs were taken across unexpected territory amongst the group. There was an unknown whereabouts of each other despite the constant contact. The product looked quite menacing itself as limbs and faces intertwined, twisting and forming unknown shapes. What I think made it really haunting was the soundtrack we moved to which was used from the film Sicario. If you’re like me and have ever seen Sicario you’ll remember walking away from that film in trauma. I’m a firm believer that music will heighten or minimise the drama of any visual stimuli, and in this case it really brought images of the alien, destruction, poverty and primitive to the movement. In saying that, this was possibly one of my favourite movements both spectating it and experiencing it.
  4. Wash journey – was a series of movements that rippled, dragged, rolled and peeled across the floor and back. Each movement was carried out in an order yet was still spontaneous in its structuring as we weren’t placed in positions each time. In this sequence Kell ideally sees 80 people carrying out this movement along a marbled room. Which I would LOVE to see and be mesmerised by.
  5. Sydney on acid – name of the accompanying song but apt to our movement as Kell guided us to let a simple movement infect our bodies through repetition and have it grow larger and less controlled into something much more wild. We made 3 of these movements and Kell gave us 5 of hers to remember and we moved through at random. Whenever executing this I was surprised where a movement would take me because not everything was mapped out precisely and the exploration into bigger/faster movement was always really satisfying.
  6. The hear and say dichotomy – oh my this was hilarious. Using headphones, we were to listen to a recording of someone reading out text, quite quickly, and our task was to say what the recording was saying – at the same time. Being too fast to interpret what was being said, I found that I just amalgamated words into ahhhhsaomthingwaypeoplegoingsrilankanhappeningsplacesforgoodfoodsirpluck. I couldn’t help but laugh while trying to enunciate and failing. Obviously. Try it.
  7. Foil fortress – in one afternoon with two microphones, we were each given a roll of tin foil and told to “go, do, make.” This is where 5 year old Alex appeared from the depths of pretend adult maturity and took full control over my body. All of a sudden I was making robo superman costumes and crumpling foil over the microphones while making verbal noises that replicated the sound of the foil. The 5 of us made a fantastic environment full of foil. Kell recorded the good hour of noises we made and took a few photos and the recording became our soundtrack for the Wash sequence. Genius.

While I’ve described 7, there were still so many different avenues we explored! The description of each of these phases were based on my experiences throughout the two weeks, and I’m really grateful to be a part of the process, it’s important to mention though that each individual will have different perspectives of the movement. As such, the movement was constantly shifting and never the same, which is again something that adds to the aura of the experimentation. I believe that this provides Kell with a skeleton of her desired framework on which she can choose to develop on, deconstruct or entirely retrograde.

Brianna Kell's Choreographic lab

I guess the experimentation was to find where resonance was most apparent. Being a part of this process I can say that in each task I felt resonance. For me, I felt there was a certain frequency of energy that was sometimes influenced by the music or by the other dancers, and it would absorb into my movement or mood causing resonance. As a spectator however there is more of a distance between the movement and sound and so resonance may be harder to find. I cannot begin to describe the withdrawals I am experiencing now that it is over. It was truly a great experience, both meeting like minded dancers and exploring new ways to connect movement with an idea. Brianna Kell was exceptional to work with as she radiated bubbliness, encouragement and so many creative ideas, I am really looking forward to what she will produce in the future !!

Wash.

Wash. is a continuation from the short film Wharf Series. I feel as though it deserves its own mini film with little to none edits as I really like the camera angle and unknown whereabouts of our lower extremities. The name of the film is incidentally the name of the music from Bon Iver and as a verb it suits the movement quality, similarly; fluid, drip, gush and current also do. If you imagine hard enough you can also picture us being emerged in water. This is still an early edit and there is more to be done to this cut but at this stage the minimal edits to the clip work well.

Wharf Series.

This film is a light hearted take on the daily routine of us (the dancers). It was initially to be attached to other footage taken around Sydney, but we got too involved with playing in this location that it became more than a snippet and more like a series… whoops. Our motives were to improvise movement that had elements of fluidity and elusiveness, and reflected the mood and context of our location. In this improvisation we would either be in our own separate worlds or integrating our movements in contact. Throughout this exploration there is a mixture of pedestrian movements and contemporary dance, although a lot of it (on my half) was “I’ll do what I think feels nice” aka lots of leg kicks, and swings, and hair flicks which can get boring to watch. Thankfully for film I had lots of chances to warp, quicken, slow, overlay and reverse to inevitably create movement that is almost impossible and unusual. But even without the movement the location is so beautiful and the weather was bloody awesome – being perfect lighting for film but also looking like an epic storm was approaching. We were very lucky.

 

Doing stuff

Over the past month I’ve been less watching dance and more ..doing stuff.  One crisp, summery morning I was inspired by a dream to make a dance film – for fun, with no hardcore concept or tricky choreography. Just improvisation, a cool setting and laughs. So I collaborated with a beautiful dancer named Lexy Panetta who had some amazing ideas and contributions to the film, and we eventually got around to spending a grey morning in the Rocks doing what we do best in little alley ways, gardens and around the harbour.

The means of the film is to capture our daily routine; to make permanent our familiarity of our home, Sydney, our improvisational/movement style and – our friendship, as much as that sounds cheesy, but often we’ll be talking and laughing throughout the film and there isn’t a need to cut those instances out. We be happy. What initially was intended as a 3 minute film ended up into 3 separate 4-7 minute films; a series. We had too much fun goofing around and exploring that we ended up with around 2 hours of raw, fun footage. I am about to see if the upload on vimeo works of one of the films. If it does I’ll get around to putting it up here in its roughly edited state!

 

Adam Linder “Some Proximity”

I saw Adam Linder perform this work today at the MCA (a fantastic contribution to the 20th biennale of Sydney). You may be thinking, isn’t the MCA a gallery space? Yes. It is. And usually a site for visual art. As such, it shows dance through a different avenue and confuses the dancer and spectator relationship. For one, there is more freedom on the spectators’ viewing decisions which adds an element of spontaneity, as well as the fact that the audience is within close proximity to the dancers, inevitably influencing the work. I’ll admit that I had a few laughs watching those who were completely ignorant to the fact that a performance was taking place, or trying to be respectful as they walked through the dancers to hurry to the toilet. Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.06.11 am

Linder’s practice is advertised as a ‘service’ and he is hired by art galleries to perform within a selected space inside the gallery for a specified amount of time. In Some Proximity, Linder and dancer Justin Kennedy would take turns to perform perambulatory movement that fluidly glides across the space while coordinating complex body isolations and locks. Kind of like a futuristic pedestrian walk. What I found so captivating about this work was the collaboration with Melbourne based writer Holly Childs, who wrote quirky observations about life in real time, as though she were writing her stream of consciousness. Linder and Kennedy would occasionally moon walk up to a wall and either read, scan read, sing, or repeat selected parts of her writing while dancing. I vaguely remember one of the scores that Kennedy read out loud “girl with go pro, arms folded, filming, always filming, like lazy. ready to post it to the world tonight.” Something like that, I’m paraphrasing. It is interesting how the text influences the dancers movement, both rhythmically and visually. One of my favourite moments of the work happened to take place while I was awkwardly sitting on the floor in the corner. Kennedy gracefully hip-hop’d his way over to the wall I was situated at and continued to dance and read the text on the wall in a panning action. The extreme close up I had of this movement was like no other performance you can witness in a theatre. He read out “If that’s a corner, that’s one hell of a corner” while zooming in and out of my corner and spinning away. This comfort to perform so close to a viewer can make it quite uncomfortable for the viewer, however I found it amusing and entertaining, and I would love to encourage dancers to continue putting the audience out of their comfort zones.

Prior to seeing this performance, I had a workshop with Adam Linder at the University of New South Wales, hosted by Dr Erin Brannigan. In this workshop he spoke about his early career and how he traveled over Europe and performed an earlier work called Some Cleaning as well as this most current work. He explained that within it there are 7 modalities; Some distance, same proximity, rhythm proximity, more proximity, very proximity, pan proximity and sample proximity. I really enjoyed deciphering and piecing these modalities as he performed them. Linder sang out the instruction to perform one of the modalities at the exchange of either Linder’s or Kennedy’s movement. The following actions affirmed the instruction and made the work a cohesive transaction of movement which added to my enjoyment of the work. I would highly recommend this piece as I could easily spend more than my 3 hours I spent today there. Linder is performing this work once more tomorrow (Monday) 10.30-1, 2.30-5.  Go! See! Do!

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 12.08.31 am

a rationale: first post

I’ll begin this entry with a humble hello and a short explanation as to why I am starting a blog, despite the obvious – thesis writing withdrawals. I enjoy writing dance, writing art, or just writing in general, and so this will hopefully expand my experience and passion on it further. But lets cut to the chase – the means of this blog is to channel my interests and thoughts on dance, or it is more for myself to elucidate my own understanding on the choreographies I have seen by local or international artists. I’ll also pre-apologise for some of the excessive ramblings, rants and no doubt endless grammatical errors that are going to occur. I know this is a long overdue pursuit of mine and is poorly timed, as there are many inspiring dance works that I have experienced and passed, escaping my memory. However I do have particular favourites, including Alexander Ekman’s Cacti (2010), William Forsythe’s One Flat Thing Reproduced (2006) and Chunky Move’s I Like This (2008).  A common theme across those works include the clear finesse of the dancers, no matter how minimal the movement performed is, and I am thoroughly intrigued by works that have an underlying concept that stimulate, challenge or entertain our knowledge. While I am attracted to all aesthetics of dance, the contemporary genre appeals to me most. \\

My background is tedious and unexciting in comparison to those who I have studied. So feel free to stop reading here. I started dancing ballet at the age of 4 and progressively became addicted to the provocative rhythms and dynamics that music gave to movement, consequently feeding my obsession of dance. While ballet was my foundation of movement I was continually being the weirdo in the dance studio (let alone at home) and breaking out those abstract, unidentifiable moves. It’s the typical cheesy love story. While practicing dance externally in studios, I also accelerated HSC dance externally, and did my best in finding ways to keep dance in my life. After school I decided to continue studying dance at the University of New South Wales through a fantastic degree in Arts and Education, which has sadly now been discontinued. At the completion of that degree I continued studying Honours in Dance. That was where I was able to fully engulf myself in autonomous choreography and music composition as well as struggle through the necessary academic readings and thesis writing. While it had its perils, it is because of my time studying at UNSW with some incredible mentors, choreographers and students that I am here now, writing this, and so grateful to have experienced it. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to hover around dance like a heartbroken ex grasping at the strings of something that once was \\