Photo – Michael Sharkey
BalletLab is currently hosting Jack Ferver’s one-man rodeo Mon, Ma, Mes (Revisite) at their new South Melbourne home Temperance Hall, and it is quite the wild ride.
Beginning where most shows would end (proper chronology of events be damned) Ferver engages us with humor and audience participation (whether we like it or not). Yes, suddenly you may find yourself with a “hand up” and a part to play – but don’t fret, the work’s already been done for you. Does that sound a bit vague? Good – you wouldn’t want all the fun given away now, would you?
Quips, anecdotes and backstory finally give way to movement, and the mood spirals from a dark comedy to something just plain dark. Ferver brings forward issues of queer existence that are not only important to understand about queer life, but also incredibly relevant to life in general. Love, loss, loneliness, isolation, and abuse – these things affect us all, on varying levels. Ferver’s presentation of how these things have affected him will bring about a great number of reactions – empathy, chuckling, surprise, uproarious laughter, and sometimes wanting to give in to an impulse that you should be looking away in discomfort.
The conservative audience member may wish to avoid this performance, as several layers of self-exposure are on the menu. Or, perhaps, those people should plop themselves front and center – there’s something to be said for art that makes us uncomfortable, that pushes against neat, prudish barriers. This performance engages with discomfort in a way that is vivid and authentic. It is easy to see that the subject and delivery are very close to Ferver’s heart and experiences.
This performance does beg the question of what exactly qualifies as “dance”. The self-produced description “lecture-performance” is a much more accurate classification than to say this is a dance. Dance can be described as a way of communicating bodily rather than orally. Yet even in the sections where movement rather than words are used to continue the performance, this was far more “interpretive dance” or “performance art” than really tapping into the realm of “contemporary dance.” The choreography seemed entirely too abstract, and did little to enhance the performance. Ferver’s intention must have been to express and expand upon his dictation with his body – unfortunately, it just didn’t translate very well.
Dance holds its power in being more than skin deep – when the shapes and the steps come from some mystical place deep inside the performer, that’s when it becomes magic on the stage. The shapes and steps here came across more as “arm here, leg here, then move at this speed.” It generally lacked depth, with a few notable exceptions. An improvised engagement with an audience member showed breathtaking moments of connection, an interaction with the upstage mirror was positively adorable and endearing, and the aforementioned exposure moments were tragically captivating.
So, no, this is not really a dance show, as some might expect. It would be more accurately classified as a piece of performance art (and a really good one at that). The host company name might be a tad misleading to those wandering fresh into this space, seeing the words “ballet” and “dance” and expecting a certain sort of thing from that. This is not that sort of thing. It is not pretty. It is not fluid. It is not a grand spectacle of impressive bodily manipulation. It may not really be correctly described as “dance” but it can definitely be correctly described as an enjoyable performance and a powerful artistic endeavor. Melbourne audiences would do well to take this opportunity to allow themselves to laugh and cringe and consider how we see ourselves, how others see us, and what Jack Ferver has to say about those things.
Phillip Adams BalletLab presents
MON, MA, MES (Revisité)
Venue: Temperance Hall | 199 Napier Street, South Melbourne VIC
Dates: 4 – 7 May 2017