Left - Rennie McDougall and Sara Black. Photo - Heidrun Lohr
The mix tape is a relic of a bygone era. They live in bottom drawers and cupboards with their hand drawn labels and ancient play lists. They are objects heavily steeped in nostalgia, lovingly crafted, carefully chosen and given to another in the hope of blossoming romance. Fuelled by adolescent fantasy, mix tapes belong to a time before CD burners and itunes play lists. You had to actually sit through the songs while they recorded. They took time. That’s why they were special.
Choreographer Stephanie Lake uses this format for Chunky Move’s new contemporary dance work entitled, funnily enough, Mix Tape. Four dancers negotiate a series of rose coloured vignettes, duets and solos, interspersed with recorded interviews relating tales of love, lost and found.
The dancers Sara Black, Rennie McDougall, Timothy Ohl and Jorijn Vriesendorp all beautifully executed the demanding and intricate choreography, integrating props such as musical instruments and reams of brown paper into several clever set pieces. The work included live music, involving a very sweet ukulele number where the girls physically manipulated the boys, playfully kissing and cuddling the other while they played and sang.
Mix Tape involved several of these tactile duets, demonstrating the fragile sensuality of burgeoning relationships. And while they were tender and lovely, they ultimately served the same dramatic purpose. The work possessed a kind of heart-on-your-sleeve sentimentality that would be easy to view cynically, but the material was handled such that it teetered on the edge of saccharine without descending too far into sugary fantasy.
The emotive song choices were at times narratively overwhelming, risking the work becoming too didactic. Words tend to overwhelm the ethereality of dance and thus dominate creative interpretation. There was also the ironic choice of Fleetwood Mac to illustrate the breakdown of love - given that the band was as famous for their tumultuous romantic politics as they were for their music.
But despite these factors, the work was so charming that it is almost impossible not to get swept up in the romance.
Ultimately, Mix Tape is a lot like the audio format it was named for. A sweet and at times melancholy tribute to hope, love, and laying your heart on the line.