Sylvia Staehli Theatre, Dancehouse, Melbourne, Victoria, June 23, 2022
Desolate. Exuberant. What do we do now? We dance, of course. From a callout in November, 2021, eight applicants were selected to develop a work of up to 20-minutes in a five-month period (February to June) in 2022, for the fifth edition of the biennial Keir Choreographic Award (KCA). The eight commissioned works included Alan Schacher and WeiZen Ho, Tra Mi Dinh, Alice Will Caroline, and Jenni Large, in Week One at Dancehouse, Melbourne. With Lucky Lartey, Rebecca Jensen, Joshua Pether, and Raghav Handa to follow in Week Two, at the culmination of which, the $50,000 prize will be awarded by the judges and a $10,000 Peoples Choice Award. (Watch this space!)
Betwixt and between the “refracted and dissolving visual fields,”1 dance is a way to enter the body and also a way to leave it behind. A way to observe the inner and the outer worlds. In the (projection of) static interference, Alan Schacher and WeiZen Ho stand, and the clarity of their twin forms dims as they ‘become’ a part of the moving texture of white noise. Signal disturbed, a threshold crossed, when they next walk towards the audience, their bodies are illuminations, altered. They’re inhabiting a changing state where light wriggles and sound thrums upon and within their forms. They’re accompanied by versions of themselves on the screen behind them, the “multiplying body” (of the second half of this work’s title, “Evaporative Body / Multiplying Body” maybe), a shimmering aura. With video artist Fausto Brusamolino and noise artist Hirofumi Uchino, there is a sense that “the body extends beyond their skin and into the places they inhabit.”2 I thought I saw the moonlit ocean at night, and perhaps I did.
And so begins KCA. And then it ends. And ends again. With “The ___”, an observation of the “duality and complexity of endings in a duet caught between harsh and slippery edges” in which Trà MiDinh and Claire Leske alternate “through shifting scenes that challenge the finality of “endings” and what it means for something to come to a close.”3 Rain abated, mist settled, a soft fuzzy peach light grew into a warmer red, and flooded the stage, like a setting sun, and in the moment asked: “Maybe we can invent something; I’d like a new way of experiencing the world.”4 The dancer, like the poet, as the universal observer. Me, in the audience, like the gamer, enjoying the non-linear puzzle of multiple endings, only for Dinh to unleash Leplace’s Demon: the present state of the universe is the effect of its past and the cause of its future,5 and ‘ring-a-ring-o’-roses, we all fall down. The end.
From a long nap6 wake Alice Will Caroline, in “What’s Actually Happening”, to the third circle of Hell, and a state of an ever-mutating emergency. Throw on what’s to hand – gold hot pants, a long black coat, long black gloves, a house plant – and go. What do we do now? What can be done? Some, like Dante Alighieri’s canto VI from The Divine Comedy, “No more his bed he leaves, Ere the last angel-trumpet blow”. As Caroline Meaden collects herself and dons the attire, tone, and mannerisms of the quintessential art gallery guide, comfort is found. Meaden could be describing the inferno within Giotto, Jan van Eyck, or Fra Angelico’s The Last Judgement with its demons in pursuit, breaking mortal bones. Or the crimson glare of Cerberus. She could be describing the greed of present day. As Alice Will Caroline tell it, with their talk of serpents like ropes at your ankles, these strange visions are familiar places, but they’re funny too.
With Lucifer contentedly chomping on a limb, by the time I land in Jenni Large’s “Wet Hard”, it’s no surprise to find that “bodies melt and solidify, unaffected by interruptions from sound and light”. Of course they do. All the while balanced upon 8-inch mirrored heels. Long black gloves are now sparkly ones, and as Large and Amber Whitaker slowly stalk forwards on the floor, they’ve transformed from two-legged to four, and later, a hybrid eight, with immense core strength. In doing so, they truly “disrupt the limits and expectations placed upon female bodies.”7 Fit the mould, the female body, the world over, is a contested terrain. What do we do now to bring about structural transformation? We act. We redraw the map.
What do we do now? We purchase tickets for Week Two.
Alan Schacher and WeiZen Ho, “Evaporative Body / Multiplying Body”, choreographers’ notes, Keir Choreographic Award, Dancehouse, program, 2022.
Pierre-Simon Leplace’s “Leplace’s Demon” introduction to A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (Essai philosophique sur les probabilités), 1814.
“Hey… We had a bad dream, we did a bad thing, and when we woke up da-da-de da-de da-da-da-dum… A number of states of emergency have been declared, with a few more in the pipeline.” Alice Will Caroline, “What’s Actually Happening”, choreographers’ notes, Keir Choreographic Award, Dancehouse, 2022.
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