Prying Eye: The Inquisition of the Big Bad Wolf
Juli Apponen and Jon R. Skulberg: Everything Remains
Various artists: " Forecast"
Thomas E. S. Kelly: (Mis)Conceive
Brisbane Powerhouse, February 15-18
Brisbane’s Supercell Dance Festival, in its second year, now looks to be a regular event. Beginning modestly in 2017 at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts (JWCOCA) as a celebration of contemporary dance, it blossomed this year, with the injection of federal and state government funding, into a week-long feast of dance performances, master classes, forums and lectures. These were spread across three venues – JWCOCA, Brisbane Powerhouse, and the temporary performance space Flowstate, at Southbank. Heavily patronised and enthusiastically received, the festival more than justified its funding.
Four key performances from national and international artists concluded each day’s events, and they were as widely diverse in theme as they were in their style of delivery. Prying Eye’s The Inquisition of the Big Bad Wolf was first. Although a little too long, it is nonetheless a creatively conceived and tightly delivered exploration of anxieties via the reimagining and contextualising of well-known wolf tales.
A cleverly crafted script by dramaturge Veronica Neave gives performers Lizzie and Zaimon Vilmanis, and Charles Ball deliciously witty lines to deliver, woven between movement sequences that are sometimes equally hilarious. The use of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, blaring from a mobile phone, provides ample opportunity for parody of the classical ballet construct.
Guest performer Alinta McGrady, as the assistant with the deadpan demeanour, was the perfect foil to the madness, but also showed off a magnificent voice. However, it was Lizzie Vilmanis’s show, anchoring the work with a dramatic performance that ran the gamut from timidity to rage, while still showing the physical acumen that has always made her a compelling dancer to watch.
Everything Remains is, according to program notes, “choreography for a tired body,” and also an examination of the effects of lived experiences on the body. Created by Juli Apponen (Denmark) and Jon R. Skulberg (Norway), it was performed solo by Apponen in the nude. Lying face-down, with feet pointing to the audience, she very slowly kneels to standing and proceeds to circumnavigate the space, one slow step at a time. It was initially riveting, as there was nothing to focus on except Apponen’s body, objectified but also depersonalised by the lack of any expression in the movement or her face; three small tattoos, a couple of scars, the shape of her legs, and her buttocks, all became objects to contemplate.
A minimalist score of piano and strings by Lil Lacy builds slowly with the movement, finishing (after about an hour) in a crescendo of percussive noise, accompanied by intense strobe effects, while Apponen, dervish-like, spins, leaps and whirls through a low fog. It is a fascinating work, carefully crafted and performed, but way too long.
"Forecast: an Australian Convergence" was also a long evening, but of four works by different artists. Expressions Dance Company gave a short but mesmerising preview of an element from Stephanie Lake’s new work, premiering in their March "Converge" season, while Singapore’s THE Dance Company presented Pure, choreographed by Swee Boon Kuik, with performers Anthea Seah and Billy Keohavong. Pure examines the complexities of living together. This duet had the fluidity of Tai Chi; the body weaving and undulating hypnotically, above firmly planted feet. There was a wonderful use of audible breath, with both dancers’ performances quite mesmerising.
Also from Singapore was Daniel Kok’s Cheerleader of Europe. A solo work, also performed by Kok, this bold and witty look at the European Union and notions of nationhood, begins with an intimately delivered tale about his time as a conscripted soldier.
Kok had the audience in his thrall. In sporting attire he ran, leapt and cartwheeled his way across the stage, cheerleading moves enthusiastically performed with gaudy gold and silver pompoms. It was 45 minutes of well-crafted theatre.
Last on the "Forecast" program, The Farm’s Gavin Webber, with Kayah Geunther, co-choreographed The Crossing, a funny, but also thought provoking piece, which explores the meeting point between two very different artists and their desires for self-expression. The diminutive but wily Geunther, a firecracker of a performer, turns the tables on the able-bodied Webber, in a series of combative sequences that drew much laughter.
(Mis)Conceive was the final work shown as part of Supercell and the most completely satisfying. Choreographed by Thomas E. S. Kelly and performed in grey jeans and t-shirts by Kelly with Taree Sansbury, Caleena Sansbury, and Natalie Pelarek, it manipulates an archetypical Aboriginal movement construct, to explore and reveal “modern (mis)understandings of indigeneity.” Grey hoodies when worn, or not worn, are used to create different scenarios that challenge our preconceptions, while much of the movement, to a percussive soundscape also by Kelly, has a rhythm that is hypnotic. It was tightly structured, entertaining, and thought provoking.
– DENISE RICHARDSON
Pictured top: Prying Eye’s The Inquisition of the Big Bad Wolf. Photo: FenLan Photography.