Speaking in Space
If you really
wanted to shift your perspective on contemporary dance, Aether was
the show to see at da:ns 2007. Quirky, whacky and post-post-modern,
it revolved around a new world order ruled by technology, media barrages
and chaos. In front of an evocative projection, the dancers flicked,
jerked, shuffled and posed, representing communication waves. Occasionally,
they opened out into superb arabesques and performed a few extended
dance phrases. Most of the time, however, they kept to themselves, creating
an introspective, dysfunctional world that seemed beyond their control.
The high calibre of the dancers was an important aspect of the performance as there were many times when there was silence and not much happening on stage. The tension between these moments and the transition to the next image became an important part of making Aether work for the audience by the process of expectation. As its title suggests, the atmosphere prevailed no matter what was happening within it; the precise details of the choreography made each moment count and carried the show. Often it was simply a brief look or an intense stare, sometimes a full passage of dance with high kicks and staccato, robotic movement.
Behind the dancers, the projection created by Michaela French was superb and among the best I have seen of this generally overworked aspect of current contemporary dance performances. It was interesting in its own right and did not attempt to ‘copy’ from the dance. Rather, it was integrated with the concept of the performance and gave the show a sophisticated edge.
The sound by Gerald Mair added to the texture of images and reinforced the notion of multiple communication systems at play in the modern world. Guerin’s successful incorporation of these elements reflects the great 1970’s collaborations between Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg, where dance, music and design were separate elements simply sharing the same time and space.
The performance was not without tenderness, however. In the second section, the dancers were awkwardly drawn to each other in various grasps, interlocking limbs, fingers and heads – these connections were tentative and doomed. A poignant moment occurred when four dancers sat stoically in a line blankly staring at another who tried all sorts of physical tricks to entertain them. Only when he collapsed to the floor did they break into restrained applause. After this, the piece ended abruptly, like the switching off of a phone line.
It would have been a total wipe-out of gloom and doom if it had not been for the injection of humour, the inventiveness of the choreography and the talented cast, whose bodies were elastic and their comic timing excellent. There was elegance in the chaos, and pathos in this treatise on life in the fast lane.
Ratings out of 5, based on
Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent /