• A scene from 'Double Double'. Photo: Jacob Collings.
    A scene from 'Double Double'. Photo: Jacob Collings.
  • Japanese performer Hiromi Miyakita. Photo: Jessie Hunniford
    Japanese performer Hiromi Miyakita. Photo: Jessie Hunniford

Festival Hub Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, and UTAS School of Creative Arts, Launceston
January 18 – 19

 In this, its second year as a fully Launceston-based festival, MONA FOMA is a combination of experimental installations and performance events. The dance works centred on improvisational practice.  

Double Double, which premiered in 2019, brings together dancers Jo Lloyd and Deanne Butterworth and drummers Tina Havelock Stevens and Evelyn Ida Morris in a performance that goes for two hours over two days. This is a work which tests the endurance of both audience and performers.

The venue was a large concrete gallery venue which was divided diagonally by a timber screen; initially with a drummer and a dancer performing on each side. Only a small number in the audience at each end of the wall could see both sides while the rest milled around and shift sides, exploring the space, often walking across the path of the improvising performers. The relationship of the performers to the audience is obscure; there is no interaction despite the close proximity. Repetition and subtle variation abound in lengthy sections as the dancer and drummer appear to be responding to their own score. Pursuing these individual movement and sound phrases, connections within and between the two pairs slowly develops and every combination of new partnership is made and broken.

The costuming is a simple but clear element of the work, as items are discarded and repurposed.  The audience can come and go throughout the two hours - and they do. As a festival piece this work is ideally suited for a curious crowd.

In the Annexe Drama Studio, solo performer Hiromi Miyakita from Japan performed with Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach, Italian flutist Alessandra Rombolà, Spanish accordionist Esteban Algora and Australian clarinetist Aviva Endean. This instrumental ensemble appears confident in their shared backgrounds in improvisation, contemporary classical music and experimental practice and dominates the relationship with Miyakita. 

In this space the audience was seated formally focused on the lit stage. This seems at odds with the come-and go-festival audience approach, with many looking uncomfortably trapped and others walking across the space as they locate the vacant seats. The continual movement distracted from the sound worlds being created by the group interactions and long-form structures of the ensemble. These, in turn, seemed to shut out the subtlety of the dancer’s contributions. Miyakita’s performance explores the idea of “dance as stillness” and the motion of a human body when considered an object rather than a living being. This collaboration seems new and mismatched and the experiment not very successful.

Despite both companies being based in Launceston, Reactor represents the first collaboration between Tasdance and Stompin. Twelve separate pairs of performers, each standing near an illuminated ring, set the scene back in the now cleared Gallery. In creating this piece one would assume that the combination of young people and professional dancers has allowed for mentorship and a strong sense of equalisation, as all the dancers have experienced the same processes in creative development. In Reactor, the performance space is defined by the hoops, yet it is the audience that steps into that space. Initial forays by audience members set off a reaction in the dancers. Part of the fun is watching participants and observers try to work out what is going on, but the rules are unclear, and the context creates voluntary participants of the audience. As each dancer responds, power relationships are flipped by some disarmingly mature performers.  There is lovely detail among the potential chaos as the sophistication of the duet form is repeatedly reconceptualised.  As an interactive piece Reactor is a festival highlight, with many audience members returning or not leaving at all for its two-hour run. 








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