Amplification | BalletLabPhotos – Jeff Busby

An unforgettable work dealing with the forbidden in the collective human psyche, BalletLab's Amplification is truly affecting; disturbing and beautiful at once. This piece was originally performed 12 years ago and remains as relevant and shocking as when it was first seen.

The impetus of the dance comes from the experience of frozen time before a collision. Images of destruction and death are explored without shying away from extensiveness. The dancers' bodies at their physical peaks are used to express our deepest, most vehemently denied fears of aging, power, sexuality and death. A culture so in love with youth fetishises the corpse; the only way to fully possess youth is to, perhaps, kill it, lovingly, regretfully, certainly erotically. The ambivalence in our relationship with physicality is the most affecting thing about this dance. You see bodies being tested as the dancers sometimes move as though they are being electrified, in scenes variously evoking ritual, disaster, abuse, torture, healing, obsession, desire, corruption, power and tenderness. They could be in death throes, they could almost be climaxing. Amplification makes large that in our souls we'd rather not recognise, along with our most confusing responses to the unsayable. It makes you think of the Holocaust, of hospital, of car crashes, of sex. These things shouldn't be invoked at the same time but here they are.

We make a business of death, with ritual and activity – we avoid sitting with it, knowing it, being there. Other cultures will spend time with the body, simply keeping it company. Sudden, violent death makes us want to peer and deny simultaneously. In the years since Amplification was created, there have occurred events which could have inspired the choreography. The outrages at Abu Ghraib prison, for example, seem to be referenced although those events came after the fact. A cleverly structured work, Amplification is accompanied by an industrial type live mix, occasionally interrupted by schmaltz or action movie kitsch. There are some surprisingly effective uses of props such as toy cars and magnetic tapes. You're thrown off balance with this one. Not easy but there's a sense of achievement all round by the end. Remarkable and deeply impressive.

Malthouse Theatre presents a BalletLab production

Choreographer Phillip Adams

Venue: Merlyn Theatre
Dates: March 22 - 26, 2011