'Lake', choreographed by Lisa Wilson
|Added:||18 July 2012|
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Judith Wright Centre for Performing Arts
Lisa Wilson, formerly a dancer (most latterly with Expressions Dance Company), is now carving out a solid career as an independent choreographer, winning the Hephzibah Tinter Choreographic Fellowship in 2011, which subsequently led to work with the Australian Ballet, Sydney Dance Company and Opera Australia. Lake is Wilson’s first full-length work.
Lake’s gestation has been sporadic over several years, with a couple of interim showings, supported in turn by Ausdance (Queensland), Raw Dance, and a Creative Sparks grant from the Brisbane City Council. This premier season was a co-production with the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.
The work’s title is more than metaphoric, as Wilson actually creates a “lake”, filling the entire stage, in which to situate the performance. This large square pool of water, maybe 6cms deep, is part of a brooding set design by Bruce McKinvin, where overhanging branches and root systems, with back projections by Chris Golsby and lighting by Jason Glenwright, combine to evoke a damp, swamp-like atmosphere.
Wilson is intrigued by the concept of water as a reflection of human emotions and, wanting also to examine our fascination and fear of the substance, has used it to embed her exploration of the tension underlying relationships, in this case of a couple, played by Wilson and Timothy Ohl. The third member of the cast, Hsin-Ju Chiu, according to Wilson, represents the symbolic underwater “muck”, which effectively helps expose the tensions in the relationship.
The playful physical banter of the opening sequence, as the couple enjoy a quiet evening around the campfire, is performed in silence, save for the sound of birds. A delightful soft shoe send-up of “Singing in the Rain” by Ohl heightens an underlying tension, as we are already aware of Chiu lying hidden in the water.
Gradually we see the relationship break down, as the setting also descends into a murky gloom, the water ominously muddy looking. A series of solos, duets and trios explore the developing tension between the couple, ending as Chiu is eventually heaved out of the water by Ohl, in a final resolution of the conflict.
Wilson has broken new ground in Lake, while still fitting within the dance theatre paradigm. Although the movement vocabulary on its own may not be that innovative, its very grounded and sometimes thrashing quality is given a new dimension performed in water. There is also a further visual texture as water droplets arc through the air, and aural texture as the splashing and swishing give the movement “voice”.
Dramatically, the use of water also succeeds in heightening the sense of menace and foreboding. When Ohl drags the inert body of Chiu through the water it brings to mind recent local crimes involving water, while it seems an inert body lying half submerged can still “scream” volumes.
However, the work tends to lack momentum in the middle section, and could be edited. The rhythm or metre of the movement at times seems too measured, particularly in the fight scene between Wilson and Ohl. This is not helped by a soundscape (Matt Cornell) that often fails to support the drama and the dance. A sequence where Wilson dances among floating bubbles, for instance, has a quite sappy accompaniment, seemingly out of context with the rest of the work.
The three performers are all seasoned artists. Ohl is very easy to watch, a relaxed but self-assured performer, and Chiu is very much at home in this dance drama milieu. Wilson, the veteran at 42, says she is finally hanging up her shoes after this season to concentrate on creating. Hopefully she will be rehearsing a replacement, because with some minor tweaking this show should have very resilient “legs”.
- DENISE RICHARDSON