Parramatta Riverside Theatres
SuperModern: Dance of Distraction is a project that choreographer Anton has been nurturing for four years. Every possible idea relating to the subject of forced multitasking in modern Western life has been thoroughly teased out. Invariably, the resulting four-person piece with its minimalist set and driving original pop music has many compelling moments.
A particular standout occurs when a female performer (Kristina Chan) is boxed in, white card forming walls behind her and red strobes shone in her face as she performs a frantic gestural phrase. The strobes make it look incredibly filmic, as though this is a sped-up stop-motion video recreated live.
Humour is another highlight. Perspex sheets held before the dancers’ faces are used to great comic effect as screens of iPhones or iPads or as a means of intervening in human interactions, for instance when two dancers (Robbie Curtis and Sophia Ndaba) share a passionate kiss separated by the screen. One man (Timothy Ohl) channels all our struggles with telecommunications service providers in a hilarious monologue, while a swaggering duet of men and microphones is both a dig at and a celebration of popular culture.
Surprisingly, given the incubation time, there remains much to be desired. The set, a simple white square embedded with fluoro lights, is not enough to shut out the black curtains hanging down around its perimeter and at no point are we successfully transported out of the theatre. The ideas at times become repetitive –- there are perhaps only so many different ways to explore frenetic life in the digital age –- and this is compounded by the episodic structure, which allows sections to be clearly compared. Additionally, the choreography often has a drawn-out quality, as though being extended simply to fit the music.
Negatives aside, Supermodern was an exciting piece. Yes, the unison duets at the beginning were out of sync and perhaps under-rehearsed. Yes, there was a distinct difference in performance quality between the younger performers and the more experienced ones. Yes, the transitions were clunky and as a result a whole section of incredible acrobatics unfortunately appeared contrived. Yes, sometimes the direction didn’t encourage the dancers to be as corny or serious as they needed to be. However there’s a lot of potential in SuperModern, and some truly fantastic ideas are well realised. Regardless of the fact that it misses the mark in a few ways, it’s a brave exploration of a pertinent idea and truly manages to make contemporary dance interesting and accessible.
-- PENNY SHORT
Read about Anton in his own words in the June/July issue of 'Dance Australia'.