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Angela Goh in “Sky Blue Mythic.” Photograph by Prudence Upton

Ripple Effect

Angela Goh's award-winning “Sky Blue Mythic” returns to Dancehouse

Performance
“Sky Blue Mythic” choreographed and performed by Angela Goh
Place
Sylvia Staehli Theatre, Dancehouse, Victoria, March 11, 2022
Words
Gracia Haby

Things open where they began, in a loop, only I don’t know it yet. In measured steps, Angela Goh walks diagonally across the stage. She studies the audience, her focus fixed, unblinking. Upon an exposed, brightly lit stage, it could be said she is comparatively exposed, but her unflinching focus says otherwise. In the quiet of the Sylvia Staehli Theatre, at Dancehouse, for the opening night performance of “Sky Blue Mythic,” you can hear the noise of the traffic outside. In a work that “is about our relationship to what surrounds us,”1 the stream of traffic on a Friday night adds to the feeling that Goh has walked into the theatre almost by chance. Cap on, and a tall orange can of Papaya drink in hand, did Goh take a wrong turn and find herself in a symbolic labyrinth on a walk back from the shops?2

“To move through a labyrinth is to explore an unknown space.”3And to move through a labyrinth of ideas, as opposed to a physical labyrinth, is one where symbols take on new meanings. A sundial is a portal to the supernatural; “an avatar is adrift in an unknowable but familiar setting, …[and a body is] an interface of flesh searching for new ways of being.”4 Goh falls to her knees, before landing on all fours. The can rolls from her hand, spilling the orange liquid on the stage. Both the fall and spill are as measured and precise as the steps that preceded this tumble. This fall and spill, it transpires, are a part of the loop destined to repeat. A glitch, at first, later interpreted to be a warning about history repeating itself and warning signs missed.

Angela Goh in “Sky Blue Mythic.” Photograph by Prudence Upton

This new full-length version of the work, which was originally created for and won the 2020 Keir Choreographic Award, is my first experience within the labyrinth. As Goh, seated on the floor, begins to size up the audience as an artist before their subject, squinting their eyes, simplifying the values of the scene all the better to know it, I can’t help winking-blinking back. Goh’s winks slowly shift and take on another possible reading as she enters a trance-like state.

Just as Giselle emerges “from the shroud of death and assumes a new species of existence,”5 this is and isn’t (a reference to) the ballet, “Giselle.”6 Goh hops in arabesque, a nod to the furiously frightening turns that mark Giselle’s first appearance in the netherworld. In her Myrtha-moment, Goh bourrées across the stage, tracing the otherworldly passage of time. An extended fourth position lunge, feet parallel, tips things over into another realm once more: this is and isn’t “Giselle.”

Now, Goh is a hawk hovering above prey, undeterred by the wind. Possibly. Or am I on the seafloor? On a carpet of brittle stars and bristle worms, in an adapted resting state. Is that a soft-bodied cephalopod containing the vestiges of internal shells alongside a handful of gems for Goh to scatter? Perhaps. Could that be a translucent organism, an erenna, comprised of hundreds of tiny zooids working together to make a bioluminescent red light?

Angela Goh in “Sky Blue Mythic.” Photograph by Prudence Upton

The lights pulsate red, blue, green. When the bright white light of the beginning is restored, the colour takes a while to fill in the present forms. As Goh repeats her fall and spill, this time facing away from the audience, it feels as though the stage has spun without my knowing, in culmination of a simple, haunting transformation.

Malleable as an octopus, meanings distort. Flexed wrists wing outward, in mesmerising Giselle wrinkles. To break the known-perception loop, humans need to not just “consider the systems we are part of—ecological, social, technological. We must break from the dangers of human centrism in favour of caring for the tangled relations that make up our more-than-human worlds”7 because nature is not a resource to exploit, nature is kin. “I imagine if we acknowledged that everything we consume is the gift of Mother Earth, we would take better care of what we are given . . . how we think ripples out to how we behave.”8

  1. Angela Goh, “Sky Blue Mythic” Artist Statement, Dancehouse, https://www.dancehouse.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Sky-Blue-Mythic-Artist-Statement.pdf, accessed March 12, 2022.
  2. In reference to Goh’s Artist Statement, “I could write about many things, not limited to: the Romantic Ballet “Giselle”, Tarkovskyian cinema, the Japanese anime Sword Art Online, the brilliance of Borges’ Garden of Forking Paths, the perfection of Malevich’s Red Square.”
  3. Ethan Weed, “A Labyrinth of Symbols: Exploring The Garden of Forking Paths,” https://www.borges.pitt.edu/sites/default/files/1808.pdf, accessed March 12, 2022.
  4. “Sky Blue Mythic”, Dancehouse, https://www.dancehouse.com.au/whats-on/sky-blue-mythic-angela-goh/, accessed March 12, 2022.
  5. Fanny Elssler’s debut as Giselle, as described in The Morning Herald, and cited in Ivor Guest’s Fanny Elssler: The Pagan Ballerina (London: A & C Black Publishers, 1970), 198–99.
  6. Goh on “Sky Blue Mythic”: “Curtains open. There is no dance being performed on the stage. The dance that is not being performed is a ballet, Giselle. The backdrop is medieval, and the elements are super natural. It’s Act 2, and you know that someone died at the end of Act 1.” http://angela-goh.com/works/sky-blue-mythic/, accessed March 11, 2022.
  7. Goh, “Sky Blue Mythic” Artist Statement, Dancehouse, 2022.
  8. Robin Wall Kimmerer, “The Serviceberry,” Emergence Magazine, December 10, 2020, https://emergencemagazine.org/essay/the-serviceberry/, accessed March 12, 2022.
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