Contemporary dance is too often a distinctly sombre affair. Audiences tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to laughing at ambiguous dance ‘jokes’, interacting vocally or physically or applauding during or after the piece, as frequently the conclusions are ambiguous.
It was a refreshing change to attend Tanja Liedtke’s Construct at The Frankston Arts Centre where the audience clapped and laughed, their excitement and delight at the work palpable. One can only imagine this is how Liedtke would have wanted the piece to be received, as she was tragically killed in 2007, three months after she was appointed as the new Artistic Director of the Sydney Dance Company. This sad fact shouldn’t taint the viewer however, as Construct is a celebration and a timely example of how a piece of art can exist and be enjoyed long after the lifetime of the creator.
Construct is an exploration of building, decay and collapse, aspiration and expectation. The set itself (designed by Bluebottle) was deconstructed and representational. The objects it contained (wood, gaffer tape, power tools) were strewn about the sparse stage, providing the building blocks for the content of the piece. The dancers themselves physically manipulated their surroundings, assembling symbols of status, stability and society from the detritus around them: a picket fence, a large house by the sea, a happy home.
The movement (performed by Paul White, Lisa Griffiths and the exceptional Kristina Chan) was intricate and technical. The highly athletic choreography was performed with an extreme level of precision and clean articulation, with each dancer exuding a powerful physical presence.
The theatre of the piece was clearly portrayed, from the early rosy days of infatuation love and sex, progressing to the domesticity of marriage, work and children. The routine of everyday life was performed with a stylised façade and a hint of melodrama. However, the suburban dream, complete with the kitsch Australiana of astro-turf and a glimpse of a hills hoist, is destined to fall apart as isolation and discontent creep in. The early trappings of success become a literal and metaphorical prison, caging its inhabitants and containing them within its walls.
The piece suggested a rejection of traditional societal aspirations of family, home and security. The visual metaphors at times seemed a little laboured and cliqued and although the piece was highly accessible, this accessibility tended to overstate some of the abstract themes of the work. The beauty of dance is that it is an ephemeral and transient art form and this delicacy is lost the moment the dance becomes didactic.
Whatever its flaws, Construct is an engaging and physically rich piece full of wit and energy that spoke of enormous potential from its young choreographer. Perhaps from ongoing touring and performance, Construct can find the development it needs to tease out the subtlety and nuance the work promises.
Venue: Frankston Arts CentreCnr Davey & Young Streets, Frankston
Date/Time: Tuesday 23 June @ 8pm
Tickets: Adult $40 Concession $35, Under 26 $26; Groups 10+ $35 ea.
Bookings: (03)9784 1060 www.artscentre.frankston.vic.gov.au