Photos – Gregory Lorenzutti
Redshift is the 2017 offering from Chunky Move's Next Move program, a program that for 10 years now has been commissioning and producing the work of the next generation of dance makers. This year's recipient of the commission is James Batchelor, who choreographed Redshift as well as performs in it, alongside performers Amber McCartney, Jack Riley and Jaqueline trapp.
Next Move seems to be about giving the commissioned choreographer complete creative freedom to produce a new, experimental work. According to the program, “Redshift stems from a curiosity in touch, physical sensation and speculation of the unknown, from body to the endless space and beyond. It has resulted in a queer universe in which measurement systems are troubled by the unmeasurable.”
Just to clear things up, the notes also explain that the work is the culmination of two years of research after a visit to islands in the sub-Antarctic, and the term redshift is the cosmological term for describing our relative distance to an object in space. More specifically, redshift is a phenomenon that describes how light shifts towards the red end of the spectrum as an object moves away from us. (Man I love Google).
If you are intrigued by this description, you may well enjoy Redshift, which I think of as more performance art than simply dance. If you're after a night of thrilling, dynamic dance, forget it.
Redshift is minimal dance at its most minimal. The opening scene of a glowing red gossamer haze at the back of the stage was interminable. It seriously felt too long. That's okay, I thought, it's probably just setting us up for an explosion of movement that will seem all the more exciting after this near soporific opening...
The dance sequence that followed was startling... for its lack of explosion and movement. It, too, was minimal and interminable. My mind wandered... haha, it thought to itself – what if the entire 70 minutes is going to be like this? How funny would that be? You idiot, my distracted mind chided itself – it probably is going to be like this for the duration. The next hour is probably going to ooze by in a way that is definitely not funny.
Not to sound too negative, there were indeed some beautiful sequences. A dancer balances on one leg while the other three attached to her other three limbs twirled slowly like a knot tangling and unfurling gracefully. Another sequence with three of the dancers flourishing and twirling on tip-toes strangely reminded me somehow of calligraphy – which given the theme of the performance, was probably not the intention. There was a sequence where the choreographer as dancer embodied changing vibration, and another with seemingly dead, velcro-clad dancers that seemed to aim for light heartedness in all this earnestness, before the close which though really so aurally and visually dazzling, was just so drawn out. And so we finished as we began.
Talking to people, I'm always surprised by how few people go to see contemporary dance, compared to, say, the footy where almost everyone seems proud to have a team. It's a shame, because dance is such a wonderful art form. I think the feeling in so many people is that they don't know dance, so dance is not for them. But as a friend (a dancer) once told me, dance is not just for dancers; dance is for everybody.
I agree wholeheartedly, but I think in some cases, some art is more for artists than the average spectator. I don't doubt that the minimal movement on show here was technically as difficult as the movements we more generally think of when we think of dance, but I don't think it's for everyone. And I certainly wouldn't recommend this for first time contemporary dance-goers; it could convert them to the damn football.
Lighting and outer-space telemetry soundscape were fittingly haunting and moody. There really was much to admire about this performance, I just couldn't get excited about it.
Chunky Move presents
by James Batchelor
Director/Choreographer James Batchelor
Venue: Chunky Move Studios | 111 Sturt St, Southbank VIC
Dates: 23 November – 2 December 2017