A scrapbook, from 6/8 to 12/8

Monday 6 August was the second of the re-booted Simone’s Boudoir monthly conversations at Dancehouse. This month’s topic was Yvonne Rainer and the artist as activist, with readings from her autobiography among other sources. So many highlights! Here’s a quote from the program note for the 1968 performance of Trio A:

“If my rage at the impoverishment of ideas, narcissism, and disguised sexual exhibitionism of most dancing can be considered puritan moralizing, it is also true that I love the body—its actual weight, mass, and unenhanced physicality.”


The following review – abridged – was published in the Herald Sun on Tuesday 7 August: Continue reading “A scrapbook, from 6/8 to 12/8”


Arco Renz: Solid States



Darkness. Dull rumble, vibratory tremors. Then a thin, human sound, like wailing. Then silence. A soft light. It’s dawn after a night of noise and confusion. We hear the calling of birds. Eko Supriyanto stands motionless on a raised platform. Beneath him is the machine, hidden from the audience by a short black curtain which skirts the platform.


Supriyanto is known in Indonesia for his mastery of classical Javanese court dance and for his many international contemporary dance successes. Indeed, according to the program for Solid States, he joined Madonna for the Drowned World tour in 2001. Here, he wears a kind of traditional Javanese cap which I think is called a blangkon; he has also a loose-fitting mesh singlet and light blue jeans with a floral strip.


He remains motionless, staring intently. His left leg slowly turns out and extends. So very slowly. The extension in particular seems to take an age. This is an exaggeration and a comment on the Javanese court style: slow, precise and graceful. He shapes elegant forms and stylised gestures to an atmospheric soundscape of dribbling beats and electronic scrapings. We notice the fingers, the shapes, distinctly South East Asian, the Hindu-Buddhist legacy. Our appreciation has a touristic aspect; but there’s also a partially exposed personal drama at play. Eko was first introduced to court dancing by his grandfather, also a dancer, and the problem of negotiating old and new, of connecting the new with the old, has an important family dimension. Continue reading “Arco Renz: Solid States”

Lilian Steiner and Leah Landau: Bunker



It happens not in a bunker but a basement. There is a narrow staircase. The floor is polished concrete. The plumbing is exposed. The walls are bare. At odd intervals you can hear the soft rush of water. There are no windows. But it isn’t a bunker. It’s an exapted interstitial space, an urban cavity appropriated as a gallery. True bunkers stolidly resist appropriation. Indeed, they stolidly resist every function except resistance itself.


Bunker is an experimental assemblage, plugging together two contrasting dance temperaments in order to see what flows. It’s also a depiction – a strange word, but I think it’s the right one – of the way different natural forces work to overtake, breakdown, absorb and ultimately erase human interventions in the natural world.


It begins with Lilian Steiner and a broken breezeblock. Here is a perfomer whose practice speaks directly to the telluric and the tectonic. She stands doubled over but rock-solid in her core on the two halves of the breezeblock. She seems to embody a thousand-year process. When the stone she is holding in her hand finally clunks to the ground, it is as if a slow but relentless force has passed through her: from the ground to the breezeblocks, from her toes, through her body and into the stone. Have we just witnessed, in a slippage of eons, the progress of erosion, the lithic dream? Continue reading “Lilian Steiner and Leah Landau: Bunker”

Slown, Smallened & Son: This Is What’s Happening

John Brack_The Playground_1959_detail


A spotlight. Three bodies: beige, prone. They begin to vibrate, a self-excitation, each with a hand tucked suggestively beneath the pelvis. Then they begin to explore their small circle of light, like motile bacteria or nervous flatworms, around and over one another. Structure emerges. Layers. The bodies stack vertically, vibrations synchronised. Then from simple to complex, the bodies separating, settling into recognisable postural habits, sitting with legs folded to the side, vibrations diminishing.

What happens next, when we’re all sitting here together, like this, legs folded to the side? Caroline Meaden reaches out to William McBride, touches, comforts. Alice Dixon reaches out to Meaden. Then blackout.


Lights up. Caroline Meaden, a solo figure, downstage right. She suggests listlessness and boredom, her arms swaying and head drooping. Whatever life she has is all in her finger. The index finger. The smartphone finger. The finger controls of the figure. The finger gives Meaden her initiative. Her languid body follows in its wake. She pours herself into the finger. Inevitably, the smartphone finger leads her into voyeurism: watching Alice Dixon and William McBride, upstage left, folded together.


Later, McBride lies on his side facing the wall. Dixon and Meaden are on the other side of the room. They’re together in their own spotlight. They begin to move their hips, slow, as if in roadhouse neon, as if wreathed in cigarette smoke. McBride stirs. Then, the blade of a butterfly knife, he is suddenly upright. He mimes running, then mimes sprinting, straining to get across the stage to where the two women stand watching him, swinging their hips. At last he reaches them. Now what? He doesn’t know what to do. And they don’t know what to do. They all twiddle thumbs, stare into the distance, wait, occasionally whisper, nothing. Continue reading “Slown, Smallened & Son: This Is What’s Happening”

Jo Lloyd: Confusion for Three


Choreographer Jo Lloyd’s problem is not how to make work that is new but how to make work in a new way. Per Marianne Moore:

Unconfusion submits
its confusion to proof

How do you make a cofusion for three? How do you reinsert a little chaos into an artistic process, a way of making work, which has become habitual? How do you generate productive perplexities, the potential for surprise?


We discover Rebecca Jensen sitting on a large square of white matting, stretching her hamstrings and the rest. Shian Law enters from behind the seating bank. Jo Lloyd follows. These two put on sneakers and then leave the room, jogging, heading out into the foyer through the main doors. They’re gone a long time. Jensen continues stretching. When Law and Lloyd return they look flushed, as if they’ve just run around the block. What really happened behind the closed doors, outside the theatre. Is this a metaphor for the performance as a whole? The dancers undergo an experience, but one that is hidden from the audience.


The dance proper begins. First Jo Lloyd. Then Shian Law. And then Rebecca Jensen. Solos give way to duets and then trios, then duets, solos and so on, the various combinations flowing together, the dancers either improvising or responding to an obscure cueing system or both. Their movements are grounded in a kind of non-technical vocabulary that ostentatiously announces its emancipation from history with loose flailing arms, heads thrown back and lots of reeling. Bodies move like streamers in a strong wind or like inflatable wavey air dancers: whippling and ripping upward then collapsing or folding up.

Continue reading “Jo Lloyd: Confusion for Three”

Donna Uchizono: Fire Underground


Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

– WS Merlin, “Separation”


Dancehouse. Therein we find Donna Uchizono – New York-based choreographer – artistic director of the Donna Uchizono Company. The work is suggestive, atmospheric, and yet not completely theatrical – not completely scenic or representational. It seems at times like a compilation of abstract choreographic ideas, some new and some old: a dozen or so motifs briefly developed, discretely, almost episodically. At other times these ideas seem more like the metaphorical gestures of an interpretive dance, but where the precise “ground” of the metaphor remains elusive.

Always, however, what flows from scene to scene is a mood, or a colour: anxious and uneasy.


What is the fire underground? It is a metaphor. It is anxiety and longing and frustration; it is a thing barely suppressed. It is blood smouldering under the skin. It is burning in the dark, stifled by not knowing.


Blackout. Three figures enter. Two sit down in the front row. A third stands centre stage. Lights up. It’s Rebecca Serrell Cyr. She is costumed in a greyish white dress that hangs to her ankles, no sleeves. The material is ragged at its edges. The skirt of the dress is slit all the way up the back, revealing her naked legs and buttocks. She spins, whirling a small cloth sack of grains, perhaps the size of a tennis ball. The sack is tethered to a thin chain about four meters long. Two meters of the chain is let out; the other two meters is wound high around her waist. The way the chain draws in the dress just beneath the chest gives the costume an almost classical appearance. It looks like a faded chiton or peplos. She spins and spins, varying her speed, and the intensity with which she whirls the small parcel. Continue reading “Donna Uchizono: Fire Underground”

Sarah Aiken: Set



We enter the theatre and discover a large hand-shaped piece of particoloured material draped over half the seating. Sarah Aiken stands toward the middle of the stage. She pulls it towards the pass door stage left, a long, lingering, cloth caress. She enters the door backwards. We take our seats. The hand bunches together like a fist closing as it flows through the narrow door.


Sarah Aiken is the 2015 Dancehouse Housemate and this is Set, a choreographic representation of the dancing life of objects and an exploration of possible “self expanding tools”: an artistic speculation on what it is to be a non-human dancing thing.

At least, this is one possible way of understanding the performance and connecting it with Aiken’s enigmatic but elegant programme note–

A thing is not just a thing.
It’s never enough to just be what you are,
you’ve got to represent.


Aiken, wearing four brown cardboard tubes, one on each limb, lies on her back. It is very quiet. We can hear the cars outside on Alexander Parade. They sound like distant waves. The thing before us, in lighting designer Amelia Lever-Davidson’s soft gloom, looks almost aquatic, like a sea anemone, its long golden spines washing back and forth in the current. The lights bring out all the warm gold tones in the brown cardboard, merging Aiken and the tubes as one – a thing emerging from the darkness of its being. Continue reading “Sarah Aiken: Set”