|I Don't Believe In Outer Space | The Forsythe Company|
|Written by Nick Spunde|
|Thursday, 11 October 2012 17:53|
In the world of dance, the cutting edge is rarely sharper than in the hands of William Forsythe. The American born ballet dancer turned choreographer has a reputation for producing offbeat conceptually driven dance works, which he did as the long-running director of the Ballet Frankfurt and has continued to do since 2005 with his own company. I Don't Believe In Outer Space is the first Forsythe Company production to tour Australia (and the first Forsythe choreographed piece we've seen since Eidos Telos in 2001) and it is a challenging but undeniably remarkable work.
Dancers twist and cavort on a stage strewn with debris, while voices thunder philosophy or carry out strange parodies of normal interaction. The movements are abstract, body shapes straining toward grotesque. Moments of pure beauty are present but rare on a stage dominated by seething physical chaos. Most of Forsythe's dancers are ballet trained like himself but you'll see little hint of traditional ballet in their movement, except perhaps for their masterful physical control.
The ever present on-stage litter, comprised of what look like grey hacky sacks of varying sizes, could represent rubble, or an asteroid field, or raindrops, or atoms. The dancers might brush them with their feet as they move, sending them tumbling, or they might pick them up and interact with them deliberately, or launch them sailing into the air. Around the movement of bodies, the debris adds an additional dynamic field.
Chaos and distortion are repeating themes. While a voice discusses the fluid nature of matter, bodies and debris seem to represent molecules forming objects, disintegrating and reforming again into new shapes. In a conversation between neighbours, both physically represented and voiced by the versatile Dana Caspersen, a housewife burbles politely while her guest roars polite words in a voice twisted in excoriating rage.
Song lyrics too are a motif, the words of pop songs spoken in a similar warped fashion: strained, or agonised, or furious. In particular the lyrics of Gloria Gaynor's disco classic I Will Survive, as referenced in part in the piece's title, recur throughout.
If it sounds confusing, it is. While the artistry of the dancers is never less than stunning, message and meaning can be hard to grasp. There are times when a certain symbolism leaps out strongly, others when the level of abstraction is too high and leaves you stuck between a sense of "wow!" and "what the...?"
If there is any overarching message it is that, whatever Gaynor says, you won't in fact survive. That nothing will. The final scene, a musing on mortality, entropy and the finality of death, is supremely powerful. Even if somewhere along the line you get lost, or out-weirded, or you really don't like disco and get tired of the repeating lyrics, that ending makes it all worthwhile.
Saying a work is "challenging" is often a critic's euphemism for "I didn't quite get it but you might". I'll admit, I didn't always get it, at least until the end. Then I was sad it was over. Maybe Forsythe is saying, in his language of bodies and abstraction, that's how life is.
Melbourne Festival in association with Joan and Peter Clemenger Trust present
The Forsythe Company
I DON'T BELIEVE IN OUTER SPACE
by William Forsythe
Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse | 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Dates: Wed 10 – Fri 12 Oct at 7.30pm; Sun 14 – Tue 16 Oct at 7.30pm
Tickets: $104.00 – $25.00
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