It’s difficult to write about Morphia Series without giving it all away. An intimate performance conceived by Helen Herbertson and Ben Cobham, it is an extraordinary and immersive experience for an audience of only and exactly twelve people. It was seen in Melbourne in 2002 and has not been back since. As part of Dance Massive, it is a strong representation of one of the many varied and unique dance practices of Australian choreographers.
Herbertson is one of Melbourne’s, and arguably Australia’s, most important dance makers. Her history as a choreographer and artistic director goes back decades. Over the years she has honed a unique craft that involves a preoccupation with creating sensory experiences, always with light and often with taste. It’s not a stretch to call Morphia Series a two-hander, even though Herbertson is the only performer. Without Ben Cobham’s ability to convey various states of light, darkness and spatial depth, Morphia Series would not work.
Morphia Series hovers in a dream world in which memories filter through. As we enter that world through a heavy curtain, a saturated blackness envelopes us. We need torches to find our seats. A shot of sweet Muscat wine and a decadent mix of mascarpone, passion fruit and pomegranate on polenta morsels are offered for consumption as we take our spots in a small raked seating bay. Later when it's time to leave, it is difficult re-adjusting back to real life in the arts house foyer.
There is a square box - a life size diorama in which the shadow of a body eventually appears. There is also a voice, but it is detached from this body. The text is evocative, somewhat abstract - enough to whet the imagination, but not overdone. It remembers the sensuality of youth and the sensory experiences of nature. David Franke’s sound compile – crackling wind, rustling leaves and ocean waves, subliminally filter through and underneath the voice and subtle actions of the body.
Herbertson is a mature, considered dancer and she is tenfold more powerful and expressive than most younger dancers. Her movements have an embedded wisdom and experience and she presents herself in a brave and confronting way. Her actions are often small, but so carefully conceived and executed that they seem to emit an electric charge. No ripple of the arm or turn of the head is for granted.
It’s the intimacy that partly makes the Morphia experience so special. The rest comes down to the brilliant sensibilities of Herbertson and Cobham whose strong collaborations continue to enthrall and vicariously affect all those who experience them.
Helen Herbertson & Ben Cobham
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Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
Dates: 10 - 15 March
Times: Tue- Sat 7.30pm, 8.15pm & 9pm, Sun 5.30pm, 6.15pm & 7pm
Bookings: 03 96390096 or www.dancemassive.com.au