Set | Sarah AikenPhoto – Gregory Lorenzutti.

Sarah Aiken is a Dancehouse Housemate/artist in residence. Her work Set is whimsical and self-effacing, starting off relatively simply with Aiken curling herself, rotating on the floor while a blue plastic tent, a geometrically shaped object rotates in a foreshadowing of later elements of the dance.

A cloth arm with a hand forms a carpet on the floor – a welcoming carpet, path, a moonlight path, a helping hand? Using her body, Aiken balances long tubes against a wall, creating a tension of wondering in the audience – will the tubes fall? The cardboard tubes become extensions of the dancer’s limbs, she’s on her back waving them, like a giant insect. The tubes remind you of spot lights at movie premieres, fronds, the hands of a clock, semaphore flags, mechanical things.

Set moves into an increasingly witty and structured engagement with space and objects. Surprises happen when the dancer, providing a retro-active appreciation of her earlier feats of balance, tips up the tubes to release various items hidden inside them – a running shoe, a rubber dinosaur, a faceted glass paperweight, shells, false teeth and a coffee mug. These come into play as tiny things once a camera is employed to rearrange and deconstruct dimensions; we see them on a screen formed by the cloth arm, and the dancer becomes another object in the set. Parameters, weights and the meanings of things are all distorted – ordinary things become monstrous and mysterious – along with their relationship of the human body. Aiken poses against the ‘set’; initially we are invited to see the dancer as self-conscious and aware of her beauty, while she becomes a sprite, diminutive against a giant shoe and mug. Aiken allows the extensiveness of the effect of her becoming Lilliputian to be enjoyed as she increasingly uncovers the playful underpinnings of the work.

Three other dancers join Aiken in a ‘tubular migration’ to Nick Cave’s song Into my Arms, then audience members join in, literally moving ‘into each other’s arms’, joined at the shoulders by the tubes. A disco ball and potted plants povide a hint of a show time finale.

Set is a gently amusing piece. It’s playful, enjoying its visual puns and the juxtaposition of everyone’s favourite love song against a literal interpretation of the words, a shift from the earlier dominant droning music.

At first Set comes across as a work following trends; we’ve seen quite a few dances over the recent years using video and objects; Set is in the same vein as the choreographies of Atlanta Eke; however Aiken's work is a delight with its own personality, fully engaged with wit and visual verbal wordplay.

A Dancehouse Housemate Program Production
Sarah Aiken

Venue: Sylvia Staehli Theatre, Dancehouse (wheelchair accessible)
Dates: July 22 – 26, 2015
Tickets: $25 – $20

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