• Photo: David Kelly
    Photo: David Kelly
  • Photo: David Kelly
    Photo: David Kelly
  • Photo: David Kelly
    Photo: David Kelly

Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
Reviewed: September 22

Using chance as a tool in the creation of dance is not a new concept. Merce Cunningham, for instance, famously determined the sequential arrangement of dance pieces, and the movement patterns themselves, by random methods such as the tossing of a coin, as early as 1951. Chance also determined the number of dancers on stage, exits and entrances, and other aspects of continuity.

Such methods, which Cunningham described as a way of creating “possibility”, similarly informs Australian Dance Collective’s Forgery and its exploration of random unpredictability. However, while the premise may not be new, the sophistication of technology underpinning the concept and execution of Forgery is cutting edge.

Creator, choreographer, coder, and sound designer, Alisdair Macindoe has devised a complex series of algorithms using the latest computer technology to dictate the direction of each performance. In effect each show is governed entirely by computer-generated directives, delivered audibly and simultaneously projected – white text on a black back cloth – to the six company dancers, who all wear ear pieces.

The soundscape is a computer-generated mix of subdued electronic blips and echoes.

The lighting (Ben Hughes) is also computer generated, with a black and white palette and using over-head moving spots that expand and contract across the space.

A female voice invitingly asks the dancers to gather on the darkened stage. In an assortment of cream and pink casual wear (also a computer-generated choice), they stand, expressionless, waiting for the first command.

Delivered at measured intervals, instructions such as “Inflate the opposite prompt side of your cervical spine,” challenge not only the dancers but also the audience trying to see the connection between text and movement. It makes an entertaining start. 

Once the methodology of cause and effect underpinning the movement has been established, the voice-over fades, with the prompts only visible to the audience on the back cloth.

It is a seamless progression from one movement to the next. Each dancer’s response is different and intriguing, with the movement style generally contained, clipped and controlled rather than broad and flowing. As the work progresses, the instructions – sometimes more difficult to read in the haze-filled space – appear more rapidly, one after the other. 

Some of the material had been determined in rehearsal, along with strategies to navigate the unpredictable sequencing of instructions, and this allowed short cohesive moments of unison and canon. Two solo moments by Josephine Weise and Jack Lister also broke up the group formation nicely. Along with Weise and Lister, Chase Clegg-Robinson, Tyrel Dulvarie, Lonii Garnons-Williams and Jag Popham make up the Collective and each is a phenomenal dancer.

The work’s energy and tempo pick up in its final moments as the commands again became audible, each delivered at a quickening pace with the dancers frantically trying to keep up. This provides much of the humour as dancers try to evoke “a hairbrush dance in a post-modern fashion” among other bizarre orders.

Viewed as an experiment in how dance performance can be generated when a computer has control of the decision-making, Forgery must surely be viewed a success, informing Macindoe’s creative practice and energising the dancers in the process.

As a dance work, I’m less sure. Cleverly imagined and complex in its genesis, Forgery nevertheless meandered with little further development in the movement construct or dynamics once its original premise of random selection had been established. Although acknowledging that every performance of Forgery will be different, the lack of any creative idea other than chance to underpin and shape the work, seemed, in this performance at least, to be limiting.


All photos above are of the Australasian Dance Collective, taken by David Kelly.

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