Sylvia Staehli Theatre, Dancehouse, Melbourne, July 2, 2022
Returning to Dancehouse’s Sylvia Staehli Theatre for Week Two of the Keir Choreographic Award, let us begin at the end. In a live cross to Carriageworks, Sydney, the 2022 KCA international jury, Daniel Riley (Wiradjuri/Australia), Eko Supriyanto (Indonesia), Laurie Uprichard (Ireland), Lemi Ponifasio (Aotearoa/New Zealand), and Nanako Nakajima (Japan), awards the $50,000 Keir Choreographic Award to Tra Mi Dinh for her questioning of what really is an ending in her work “The ___”.
As Dinh describes in an interview with Ari Tampubolon: “what I’ve discovered looking at “endings” is that they’re a circular situation. Where something ends is also where something else begins.”Things unfold and become, because time is woven all around us. Time is relative, Einstein circulated. A continuation, Thích Nhất Hạnh disclosed. And so Dinh’s work about the cycle of things does not actually end. As the recipient of the KCA, this short work will generate and become a longer work, and new works, and be part of all things, like “rain is a continuation of the cloud” and “rain is transferred into grass” (No Death, No Fear, Thích Nhất Hạnh).
With the final paper votes counted in Melbourne, Phillip Keir announces that Jenni Large is the recipient of the $10,000 Peoples Choice Award for her work examining the duplexity of stability and instability in “Wet Hard,” and the audience applauds, whoops, clicks their fingers, and stomps their feet to both announcements in the direction of the screen.
Not for the first time do I find myself at Dancehouse thinking about time as a harmonious cyclical return. Or is it more of a spiral-shape? Does it exist at all, asks the hypothetical physicist seated behind me? In the distance, all lights out, I hear the familiar creak of someone scaling a ladder. In Rebecca Jensen’s “Slip” where “obsolete objects fall out of time and everywhere there is noise,”1 Jensen tumbles from an a-frame ladder and lands on a padded base with a thud. With two long plaits brought from the nape of her neck, crossed over the top of her head and tied together, Jensen appears to have tumbled ‘forward’ from the Middle Ages to present day. In a long, olive green costume, replete with a veil held in place by a medieval circlet, Jensen is interested in exploring the space where our own personal memories smudge into collective memories seen on the screen and how, in doing so, a new sense of reality is made.
Working with performer and composer Aviva Endean, in the role of a film’s Foley, to turn a page of a newspaper is the sound of scrunching the page into a ball; to eat the contents of a packet of chips is the sound of biting into a celery stick. With Endean not hidden off stage, but on stage, by her table of props to reproduce everyday sound effects, their conversation is initially a playful one before “delay, deferral, and doubt” arrive.
Also paired, taped at the hip, performer and choreographer Lucky Lartey and performer Vishnu Arunasalem in “Exoticism.” At times, Lartey and Arunasalem mirror one another, and at other times they complete the other and make a silhouetted whole, in a deconstruction to reconstruction “of what a diverse contemporary work should look like in a post-colonial landscape.”2 Drawing upon their “collective lived experience of people with diverse backgrounds”, Lartey marks out the space and draws with lengths of black PVC tape. Lartey’s performative interventions transform flat surfaces into depth, following the principle that two converging lines can make a landscape. In tape art, the marks are unfixed, and so an arm pointing diagonally from the body of a stick figure can change to keep pace with the movements of Arunasalem.
Joshua Pether’s from ‘end to beginning’ ritual, “As Below, So Above,” is experienced, on the night, as another pairing, though this was not the original intention. The absence of two of the four performers hides two points of the cross, only to reveal them through the measured retracing of steps. Through trance-like repetition to “uncover the hidden spaces that exist in the known,”3 we’ve circled from collective memory to collective lived experience, to collective consciousness.
With the world ever oscillating between states of war and peace, violent and non-violent means, literally or allegorically, Raghav Handa’s “Follies of God” takes place “on a battlefield, the sacred text of Bhagavad Gita.”4 Through looking at the many readings, translations, and interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita, from Gandhi’s understanding that the Gita was a framework for his philosophy of non-violence to those who have grossly misinterpreted it to suit their own ends, active resistance and brutality bump up against each other, and all in the span of twenty-minutes.
By the time the sixth edition of the biennial KCA rolls around, Mars will have orbited around the Sun once (as we know it in Earth time). Time passes. Quickly, you’ll see.
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