Temperance Hall, South Melbourne, 4 May
Dance Australia covers movement genres from classical ballet to independent experimental work and hopefully provokes readers to extend the reach of their appreciation for the full range of possible movement expression. Sometimes performances that I see lead me to question the parameters of what we might call dance and what our readership might be interested in hearing about.
Jack Ferver's Mon, Ma, Mes (Revisité) is such a work. I would like to begin by saying that it is a very accomplished work that is entertaining and very tightly constructed but that the danced episodes contained within it throw up some interesting questions for me.
New York based Ferver is visiting Melbourne as the first ever artist-in-residence at Phillip Adams BalletLab which has recently found a new home at Temperance Hall, site of the old Anthill Theatre, in South Melbourne. Mon, Ma, Mes (Revisité) is a revisitation of sections from some of Ferver's previous work.
It is essentially a monologue with break-out sections of movement/dance. The work is performed in a studio space with audience seated on three sides. Ferver enters, sits on a plastic chair and picks up a microphone. He commences a rapid-fire monologue about himself - the substance of the entire show. It is hilarious, well-timed and outrageously egocentric. He quickly announces that he will start with a Q and A since he has only so much energy and doubtless we will be clamouring for him at the end of the show when he is emotionally spent.
This section involves Ferver choosing a series of audience members who are given a card containing a question. The person reads out the question and Ferver monologues some more in response, delighting his audience with snippets of egregious disasters with collaborators (some of whom might not have survived their encounters with Ferver) and insights into his precocious prodigy. The tone is camp, precious and very funny.
The work is punctuated with short movement pieces. One is with a dancer plucked from the audience. It is a funny but tender duet of touching finger-tips and lunges, too close for comfort violations of personal space and genuine beauty. It is well judged and lovely with an edge of silliness. The other interludes puzzled me slightly. This is because they seemed to be almost parodies of dance that were very much played for laughs, which they got.
So I suppose my question is how much is dance being used by Ferver as an expressive form in itself or is it being recruited purely as a comedic device? The majority of the work is a send up of Ferver himself but if dance is not virtuosic (which this isn't here) then what is the substance of the work for a dance review?
Certainly Ferver is very much in control of the tone of his choreography and it is very deliberate. Movement is also only one element of the work and Ferver successfully integrates each aspect. The clown is clearly present in the exaggerated, parodic dance movements, complete with facial expressions. It is also present in the disarmingly swift swoop from high camp shenanigans to sincere and heartfelt explorations of darkness and abuse. Ferver skillfully orchestrates his viewers' emotional shifts.
As theatre, Mon, Ma Mes (Revisité) is a great ride and Fever's borrowings from a raft of performance modalities works to layer different strands of meaning and response. It is also rewarding to come away from a performance with questions and especially when some of those questions are about the nature of dance.
- SUSAN BENDALL