Site specific performances are unique, individual encounters, and this year’s in SITU brings experienced and creative choreographers and performers contributing a diverse array of responses to the presentation. Emma Fishwick and Kynan Hughes have worked with STRUT Dance and The Perth Theatre Trust to realise an instalment of independent dance works around the courtyard spaces of the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia.
Opening the promenade experience for the audience, we first sit along a wall along one of the approaches into the courtyard for the first part of Storm Helmore’s Standing on the borderline of the precipice I reflect on the dark matter of mouseprint. Helmore has performed at the State Theatre Centre in several different works, elements of each brought together in this intimate engagement. Entering via the sound installations, she reprises movements from a past work. She recalls moments from past rehearsals and performances, while dressing and changing from costumes that are heaped on the ground. She approaches individual audience members to greet them, ask for some assistance and then moves on, distracted. The memories and interactions build with her movements and the subtle sound accompaniment also grows until Helmore is moving in a montage recalled from times before and then she goes, leaving us to follow our host cheerfully waving a sunflower.
We don’t go far, to a railing overlooking a lower level courtyard space where we look down and see Tyrone Robinson, Nicole Ward and Shuling Wong working with patterns requiring focus. An intricate repetition reminiscent of elaborate schoolground hand games, audience members try to distract the dancers by asking questions, seeing if the dancers can continue while discussing their recent dream experiences, the irritations of a work day and other matters. Choreographed by Brooke Leeder, three – the experiment series addresses dance beyond its obvious physical aspects, foregrounding the mental element of focus and concentration essential to successful performance. Audience participation continues with verbal coaching for a sequence of moves from a video to Ward, who makes valiant efforts to apply the instructions to learn a rapid, elegant and complex movement being demonstrated by Robinson and Wong behind her.
Next we ascend a staircase, where Yvan Karlsson and Jacinta Larcombe perform PLAYER, choreographed by Karlsson. Commencing on the stairs and then moving around the walkways above the courtyard, PLAYER uses the linear space as an arcade game, accentuated by bombastic narrative directions in the soundtrack and simple costuming featuring overalls. Karlsson and Larcombe take the roles of Player One and Player Two, initially quite playful in their parts. Larcombe’s cheerful progression up the stairs and Karlsson’s posing along the brickwork move to more confrontational movements along stretches of walkway. Interactions evolve as they level up before ignoring the voice’s commands to leave the arcade game constructs to seek a new freedom.
Entering the main courtyard itself, the audience sits in an arrangement of random armchairs and couches, ready for Salutem, choreographed and performed by Sarah Chaffey and Russell Thorpe. Chaffey and Thorpe rise from their chairs and, with intensely locked gazes, move towards each other under a hanging ceiling of sunflowers, revealing the performance space to be covered in bubblewrap. Rolling together, accompanied by frenzied popping, they then take turns to precisely pop bubbles and laugh. Guffawing, they move from poking bubbles to connecting, finding poses intertwined together and then moving steadily to explore movement in parallel, mirrored, and then intermingling again. Chaffey and Thorpe convey strong emotional intensity on several levels in Salutem, rapidly developing sequences to reflect the changes in mood between the pair as they physically explore the limits of space and each other’s companionship.
We then move to the edge of the courtyard, to a long shallow fountain. Helmore reprises slow steady movements in a stately progression through the water, arms sensuously holding the attention and then a steady return away, trailing a golden ribbon of fabric with her, entangled through her legs in the dark pool. The sound, dance and watery stage combine in a dream-like interlude.
The DJ, lights and open street viewpoint provide a stark contrast before Eve Newton-Johnson and Zoe Wozniak even step into view to perform womb, choreographed by Newton-Johnson in collaboration with Wozniak. An elaborate fanfare welcomes the pair onto the lights of the pavement at the entrance to the State Theatre Centre, the play of coloured glows giving them a red carpet worthy opening as they stride in a stately way, seizing attention. A change of musical pace and a change of costume sees them strutting in a different mode, still demanding attention. Wozniak and Newton-Johnson throw poses, strut their stuff in an aggressive display of confidence, owning the dancefloor and eyeballing faces in the crowd.
Fishwick and Hughes have brought together a collection of diverse works, intimately presented from the clever to the surreal, with humorous touches and many moment of beauty as the performers explore their artistic possibilities in the fascinating surrounds of the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. The progress from piece to piece flows smoothly, with a minimum of fuss and consistently appropriate vantage points for viewing each performance. in SITU performances attract choreographers and performers ready and willing to develop pieces exploiting the potential and working around the limitations of defined spaces, leading to not only development of creative skills but allowing the audience and artists to see and interact with venues in new ways.
STRUT Dance and The Perth Theatre Trust present
in SITU 2016
Co-ordinated by Emma Fishwick and Kynan Hughes
Venue: State Theatre Centre of Western Australia
Dates: 9 – 12 November 2016