>ACROSS OCEANS by Dance Dimension Project

>reviewed by sherrie lee

>date: 8 jan 1999
>time: 8pm
>venue: the drama centre
>rating: ***1/2

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


It wasn't quite like dance but then, that is what the contemporary dance group, Dimension Dance Project, seems to be all about with an alternative name like EcNad, the reverse spelling of "dance" which signifies the group's approach. Movement, sound and lighting fused to create intriguing work in DDP's 12th production, with Canadian Maxine Heppner as guest choreographer and soloist.

Maxine Heppner opened the evening with her solo piece, SNOW, which was created and performed in close collaboration with composer-pianist John Sharpley. As in most cases of contemporary abstract pieces, the more insistent on plot and linear progression, the more frustrating the experience. Determining meaning at any one point defeats the purpose of an all encompassing form like dance. Heppner herself describes it as "a duet of movement and sound, stillness and silence." Wrapped up in white rags and with hair done up in mop-like fashion, Heppner became snow, half literal, half allegorical, but always poetic.

>>'The imagination was captured, the senses teased; the world seemed another place.'

SNOW was an insight into the facets of a life force, not just in meteorological terms, but also in terms of complex human survival. The foot stamping and rhythmic piano accompaniment seemed to suggest an unrelenting ego force ar work, particularly present in frantic (but controlled) instances. Where there were slow and contemplative moments, they were gentle and soothing, although a bit bewildering for me as well. Throughout the sea change of emotions and movements, Heppner's energy was focused and her poetic vision bore fruit.

The ensemble piece, STEEL, choreographed by Heppner with contributions from the DDP dancers as well, carried on in the fashion of fluidity and imagery. The opening bit, however, was more of a warm-up session than an artistic enquiry into the nature of steel. These familiar stretches, jumps and coordinated movements were a bit out of sync wit the rest of STEEL which engaged in original explorations of the properties of steel like sharpness and strength, as well as less obvious ones like playfulness and gracefulness.

About twice as long as SNOW, STEEL was also metaphorical and poetic. With a lot more images and ideas romping across the stage, it was more difficult to assimilate and process. There were times where I could appreciate inexplicable detail yielding thought provoking moments, like when a dancer was enacting a tea time scene while other dancers were engaged in a ground bass of mutters and chants. But there were times where I was lost in the daners' world of leaps, turns and sways. It was difficult for my mind to concentrate on a non-programmatic content, especially when it was a case of scene after scene of movement and sound. Nonetheless, it was still a treat to watch the various permutations on the subject of STEEL, concrete or not.

The imagination was captured, the senses teased; the world seemed another place.