Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sydney Festival 2015 - Nothing to Lose

Cover Photo: Toby Burrows
Nothing to Lose Force Majeure directed by Kate Champion.  Artistic Associate and Music Curator: Kelli Jean Drinkwater; Set and Lighting design: Geoff Cobham; Costume design: Matthew Stegh; Text Dramaturg: Steve Rodgers.  Sydney Festival at Carriageworks, January 21-25, 2015.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
January 23

At its heart, dance is celebration.

But to make a dance means to know and show what is to be celebrated.  And why.

The best dance work makes what is being celebrated both personal and universal.  Kate Champion’s work is among the best.

Nothing to Lose is, in one sense, not all Champion’s work.  Her special skill as director is to bring others in: not only those mentioned already, but Ghenoa Gela to choreograph the finale to sound composed by Stereogamous (Paul Mac and Jonny Seymour), and indeed the whole company working together to devise the movement vocabulary.  And an important participant in the process was an “Outside Eye”: Roz Hervey.

Force Majeure’s continuing success, including this show, the previous collaboration with Steve Rodgers, Food, and earlier works also reviewed on this blog, The Age I’m In, and Never Did Me any Harm, has always resulted from Kate Champion’s vision of new forms of dance/drama and her cooperative way of leading her company, often consisting of groups of people with a need and desire to express themselves through a movement vocabulary devised for their particular kind of celebration.

It is sad, then, to read in her Director’s Note I would … like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported my work with Force Majeure since its inception, in particular Carriageworks and Sydney Festival.  I am sincerely honoured that our resident home and the Festival that presented our first show have co-commissioned my last as Artistic Director with the company.
The Cast
Photo: Heidrun Lohr

Whatever the future holds, Nothing to Lose is literally writ large in today’s dance scene.  However I must try to avoid writing anything fatuous, since the show’s words in a way undermine my role as critic.  Almost – it seems every possible – derogatory (politically incorrect) word or phrase that people use to describe fat people is presented in a tumbling cascade of squirm-making sound, followed by all the politically correct questions and advice that people ask of and give to fat people, leaving me only able to say that the show simply says accept us for what we are and celebrate our lives with us.

Words are not needed then.  The conventional responses to such large bodies presenting themselves to us on stage are broken down first by an unusual form of audience participation.  The figures, on low pedestals, become exhibits of art works, statues that volunteers from the audience are guided to touch, exploring the bodies, in a personal and finally comforting way as they each rest their head on the expansive soft stomach of their chosen statue, “as if on a pillow”.  The experience (even of just watching as I did) reminded me of the Ron Mueck statue of the pregnant woman and the other naked figures in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition In the Flesh (until March 9, 2015), except that we were not allowed to touch those.

As statues in an exhibition, with guide Julian Crotti
Photo: Heidrun Lohr
Photo: Heidrun Lohr
The members of the Cast – Claire “Scarlett” Burrows, Julian Crotti, Michael Cutrupi, LaLa Gabor, Ally Garrett, Latai Taumoepeau and Anastasia Zaravinos – performed a series of episodes expressing in abstract forms emotions and experiences as people rather than as “fat” people.  Their physical skills and quality of dance movement, and the range of styles they worked in, simply showed us that expressive dance for such large people is just as normal as it is for any other people.  The way they moved was personal to them, but we could all relate to their feelings and applaud their success as dancers.

As a finale, an Ensemble – Alexandra Afflick, Kelli Jean Drinkwater, Alice Hatton, Michael Jaja, Victor Johnson, John Leha, Maeve Marsden, Malafou Ralph Togia-Molesi, Cara Neely, Shondelle Pratt and Angela Sullen – joined the Cast in a whole of company celebratory group dance in unison which elicited whoops, cheers and whistles as well as lengthy applause from a highly appreciative audience, which certainly included this critic.
Photo: Heidrun Lohr

Photo: Heidrun Lohr

Photo: Heidrun Lohr

Photo: Toby Burrows

Photo: Toby Burrows
Photo: Heidrun Lohr

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