Collusion: Desirelines -
Judith Wright Centre, 2 September -
Described as a chamber ballet for three musicians and four dancers, Desirelines was created collaboratively by Collusion, a locally based music and dance ensemble, led by violinist Benjamin Greaves and independent choreographer Gareth Belling. Disappointingly, it was the only contemporary dance offering in the Brisbane Festival, concluding the night the festival opened.
Belling cites Richard and Peter Wherrett’s 1998 book Desirelines as the catalyst for this work, which explores ideas of desire and choice, and, according to Belling, how following your heart’s desire can sometimes put you “exactly where you need to be.”
It is sparsely constructed with the stage open to the wings – the mechanics of the lighting clearly visible. The idea of lines or pathways is incorporated into the design elements, with bright white images of the music score projected onto the stage floor in various formations throughout the work.
Short sections of metal tracking, assembled and disassembled to traverse across and around the stage, also enable the manoeuvring of performers within the action by way of a small, wheeled platform. The dancers (Nathan Scicluna and Melissa Tattam, both ex-Queensland Ballet, with Michael Smith and Amelia Stokes) use this tracking system to position or propel the musicians, creating different configurations for each section of the work.
Belling draws from the classical ballet canon to create contemporary movement, with multiple off-centred high grande rond de jambe en dehors and en dedans, assemblés and the occasional brisé en avant clearly identifiable. Following the nine musical sections the movement is delineated into mainly solos and duets.
There is some interesting partnering work, particularly a creative section of body shape-making as intertwined dancers (Tattam and Stokes) “track” across the space upstage. There were cohesive moments of unison between Scicluna and Tattam to the yearning strains of the cello. It is pleasing to know Scicluna hasn’t totally hung up his dancing shoes after retiring from QB last year, while Tattam’s crisp lines are also always a pleasure to watch.
One of the most beautifully realised sections has a dancer (Tattam) moving along a fractured red line projected onto the diagonal, while a seated cellist (Danielle Bentley) travels in an arc around and downstage of her. A distorted line of music replicates this arc on the stage floor.
Collusion’s collaborations are underpinned by a belief in the importance of live music within an artistic production, but also a desire to involve the musicians visually in the theatrics, by placing them on stage as part of the action. While the intention is no doubt to privilege dancers and musicians equally in Desirelines, it sometimes seems that the musicians are the main players. Greaves, joined by Bentley and clarinettist Diana Tolmie, often dominated with the sheer force of their virtuosic performance of the especially composed pieces by Susan Hawkins, which bookended more familiar short works by Peter Sculthorpe and Jacques Ibert. In comparison the dance was sometimes less strongly realised.
The changing patterns of the projected score being read by the musicians, fascinates, but also often draws focus away from the dance, while the repeated breaking up and reassembling of the track by the dancers between movements becomes quite intrusive, especially as little attempt has been made to incorporate this action more into the movement construct. Choreographically it seems a lost opportunity.
The contest between dance and music disappears in the work’s final section where the dynamic for both is more lively and vibrant, and clearly defined staging has the trio behind a reversed arrow of projected white parallel lines, upstage of the dancers. It is a cohesive and satisfying conclusion.
– DENISE RICHARDSON
Photos: FenLan Chuang