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perth festival 2013

artfully, entertainingly visceral

maggi phillips: dance, perth international arts festival 2013

Clouds, Aracaladanza Clouds, Aracaladanza
courtesy Perth Festival

While artfulness abounds in the works under question, all revel, unashamedly, in seducing audiences into their respective worlds of absurdity, illusion, lush dynamism and humanism. Their different performance inflections, nevertheless, speak of vagaries of the human condition, viscerally penetrating thought. La Cuchina’s accident-prone pizzeria is not without its message of a consumerism which, like the pizza dough, is spun out of nourishing usefulness. Awareness of René Magritte’s examination of disproportion probably enhances interpretation of Clouds and familiarity with cultural symbolism might enable viewers to penetrate depths underlying the rhythmic extravaganza of Shiva Shakti and, yet, few would miss the play on reality of the former or the mighty force of gender relations in the latter. The unembellished dancing people, 24 in total, of 3G simply populate the stage with movement and the traceries of tales such gestures weave. There is a subtle dig at elitism with this festival programming which might have affronted the stalwarts of the avant garde but which I found to be ‘entertainment’ with zest and purpose.

la cuchina dell’arte

Circus Rinaldo’s La Cuchina dell’Arte unfolded under a tent in the slow cook of Perth’s mid-summer heat. This ‘small top’ encircled a display of low-tech gags enacted by two skilled performers, a commanding straight-man-chef and his charming, if conniving, waiter who emerges from the darkness with a match or, rather, multiple boxes of matches to light the first candle of the night on a tiny romantic, checked table-clothed table for two. In the fumble of falling light and intermittent utterances, the scene is set, deliciously positioned between surprise and predictability. What follows embraces the anarchy of commedia dell’arte, taking detours into audience participation, stolen sweets and juggled pizza dough whose swirling produced holes in the circular texture to proclaim (gently) the wisdom of failure. Appeal lay in the ability of the brothers to construct an imaginative world from the fundamentals of shallots, brooms, pizza shovels and plate-spinning, matched consummately with their ability to smooth the anxieties of their chosen participants (and the rejected ones) with the absurdity of trying to succeed.


“Fantasy, imagination and magic,” Aracaladanza’s guiding principles, play lightly in Clouds with the perspectival disjunctions and incongruous logic of Magritte’s imagery. Choreographer, Enrique Cabrera, utilises the imagery of clouds as raw material to be transformed into hand-held balls of fluff or translucent inflatables rolling across the stage. At other moments, clouds become huge bubble-tutus costumed by hidden performers, silly sheep gambolling in and around dancers’ legs or stormy trickeries in an enchanting shadow sequence where dis-embodied hands encase the seemingly diminutive human forms. Green apples appear and disappear, doors leading no-where swallow unsuspecting adventurers and bowler hats, like a Magritte ‘brand,’ head the dancers off to willy-nilly encounters. Object theatre meets contemporary dance in this child-like terrain where decapitated black-suited bodies entertain with snappy jazz routines stomped-flopped by the cast of six tireless dancers. The jokes probe Magritte’s take on the sur-real, the surface non-sense which unhinges inner desire.

shiva shakti

Shiva Shakti, Daksha Seth Dance Company Shiva Shakti, Daksha Seth Dance Company
courtesy Perth Festival
Throbbing drums herald the spectacle of two cosmological principles, Shiva (masculine) and Shakti (feminine), of the splitting and cohering of male and female rhythms as only Hindu artists can conjure. The percussive presence of the Daksha Seth Dance Company, beaten out with hands, feet and reverberating bodies, harnesses the forces of the ancients by way of Kathak dance, martial arts’ Chhau and yogic traditions of rope and pole to revel in the time-space of Bollywood. Shiva Shakti represents an India here and now, which is simultaneously an erotic Sanskrit past. Some might think the colour, virtuosity and symbolism an excessively sensuous onslaught but the insistent interplay of sound patterns embodied by dancers and musicians alike warms the blood. The slipped polyphonic beat in its intricate and often thrashed concentration on a big drum with rice raining down in a column of red light cannot but both entrance and terrify. This opposition is enhanced by the aerial work with rings, silks, rope and a marvellous fighting sequence on a double harness which brings Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on stage. The gods and their skilled human representations bounce off the earth of our imagining.


 Jean-Claude Gallotta, STRUT dance in association with STEPS Youth Dance Company Jean-Claude Gallotta, STRUT dance in association with STEPS Youth Dance Company
photo Christophe Canato
Against the thunderous tumult of Shiva Shakti, quietude returns with Jean-Claude Gallotta’s 3G, where dancers across three generations construct, out of their diverse bodily understandings, the same choreographic material. The children ‘do’ the movements with utter seriousness as if demonstrating their proficiency at the alphabet or times table. The eight-some has been drilled to professional accuracy and fulfils those expectations without missing a beat. Context for all sections is shyly suggested in introductory Italian film snippets from the 1930s or 40s. In the generational beginning, a grandma arrives to an over-flowing saucepan of boiling milk, only to transform the moment of disaster for the young boy into an imaginative riverine landscape on the spilt milk’s floor. Ends, through this imaginative device, are tied to beginnings.

Jean-Claude Gallotta, STRUT dance in association with STEPS Youth Dance Company Jean-Claude Gallotta, STRUT dance in association with STEPS Youth Dance Company
photo Christophe Canato
Physically, the child generation (performed by members of Steps, WA’s Youth Dance Company) levitate, as if gravity had not touched their small statures and dreams. The adults enter with visceral density which grounds the movement and its sensual/sexual complications. Interactions compound not in a narrative through-line but in glance, luscious gesture and powerful leaps and stamps, communicating a dynamic range of engagement which, with all of its power, still admits limits and emotional anxieties. The third generation, the eldest, bind the work together: curiously they are more and less confined in weightedness. Grace enters into the equation, given through gesture which suits Gallotta’s particularised movement. The film before this segment is a comic rendition of a community who trot into a stream of sunshine in a snow-defined landscape. The image of this generation gravitating to light exemplifies the generational journey. The shaft of sunshine fades and the third generation of dancers begin their enactment. Strangely, via the imagination of this third generation, the dance continues within a landscape built around beginnings in spilt milk.

When the three generations came together in a brief epilogue and final bow, the sense of family and community presented a powerful image, redolent across time and space, of the way in which performance touches the aching mix of dream and actuality to which we all subscribe.

Perth International Arts Festival 2013: Circus Rinaldo, La Cuchina dell’Arte, Russell Square, Northbridge, Feb 9-24; Aracaladanza, Clouds, choreographer Enrique Cabrera, Regal Theatre, Feb 14-17; Daksha Seth Dance Company, Shiva Shakti, choreographer Daksha Seth, director Devissaro, Regal Theatre, Feb 25-28; STRUT with Steps Youth Dance Company and Centre Choregraphique de Grenoble (France), 3G (Trois Générations), choreographer Jean-Claude Gallotta, rehearsal directors: Generation1 Alice Holland, Generation 2 Danielle Michich, Generation 3 Sue Peacock, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, Studio Underground, Feb 28-March 2

RealTime issue #114 April-May 2013 pg. 16

© Maggi Phillips; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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