Alive! 20 Years - 20 Choreographers Dancehouse Anniversary Season
|Added:||26 June 2012|
Click on thumbnails :
Melbourne, June 21
After 20 years of facilitating independent dance and dance making, Dancehouse has thrown itself a slap-up birthday celebration. The series of three consecutive programs highlighted the beginnings of Dancehouse and its evolution through two decades. This is an ambitious and big-hearted way to celebrate, bringing together as it does significant players in Melbourne's independent dance scene and building up a picture of what Dancehouse has meant to contemporary non-mainstream practice.
For those "lovers and makers" already part of the Dancehouse family, this anniversary program offered the opportunity for reflection, congratulation and projection into the future. For those unfamiliar with the activities and achievements of Dancehouse, it offered a distillation of works both past and present, a kind of essence of Dancehouse and its spirit.
Three programs of works were presented one after the other and could be viewed individually or in one evening. This epic, four hour event was supported by two intervals and libations and was woven together by a host. On the night that I attended, Sally Smith presided in this role. I found her character a little indeterminate, calling herself a diva, using German terms but dressed rather like a theatrical version of a fortune-teller. I wasn't convinced that her persona added to the occasion. However, it must be said that the audience seemed highly entertained by her antics. For my tastes it was rather broad and pantomime-like and didn't really relate to the endeavour of independent dance.
The three programs mixed restaging or reimagining of past works with newer works and showcased performers of different ages. This cross-generational aspect was a great strength. In the first program, highlights were Tony Yap's solo, Mangone, rendering of a 1992 work originally made as a duet for himself and Sylvia Staehli. Yap's fluid movement and butoh references gave a transfixing quality to the dance and a sense of ritual. Interestingly, another older work, Tracie Mitchell's 1997 film, Sure was also a high point in this program. Mitchell skillfully and sympathetically translates choreographic language into a filmic artwork that is really beautifully realised. Of course, it is also fun to see familiar dancers featured early in their careers.
The boys dominated in the second program, and again, they were not new works. Shaun McLeod's Cowboy Songs had a kind of blokey charm that lent a different feel to the evening. Examining models of masculinity, it begins with contrasting and intermingling monologues from the two dancers, one representing a modern suburban male and one a stereotypical cowboy. It goes on to explore these male cultures through cowboy songs and movement while keeping a lightness of touch. Christos Linou, in his restaging of a mash-up of Fiddle De Die and The Terror of the Old (1995/1998) provided a high energy, absurdist contribution that gave a good idea of the breadth of work encompassed by Dancehouse. There's mania, there's song, there's drug/sexual/religious references, there's excess of all kinds.
The final program gave the audience a beautiful piece by Michaela Pegum, Lexicon for a Storm, choreographed in 2011. This solo work features nicely articulated and controlled movement and a highly resolved quality. In contrast, a five hander from Born in a Taxi, called The End, rallies physical theatre, clowning, improvisational techniques and more into a highly engaging piece, that is tight and doesn't feel dated. I suppose this is one thing to take away; some things seem fresh but are not new. It is also not necessarily obvious which works are recent, perhaps because they come from a mature practice.
Without a doubt, Dancehouse has made a significant impact on the landscape of dance in Melbourne over the past 20 years and still seems to have its vitality and attack. Dancehouse continues to fulfill an important role in supporting and promoting dance and physically-based performance art, and this is really something to celebrate.
- SUSAN BENDALL