Saturday, March 5, 2016

MONUMENTAL Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016


The Holy Body Tattoo with live music by Godspeed You! Black Emperor.  Festival Theatre. Adelaide Festival Centre. A co-production with the Adelaide Festival of Arts 2016., PUSH International Performing Arts Association, Place des Arts, Montreal, Edinburgh International Festival and BAM for the Next wave Festival. March 4-5. 2016

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Choreographers Dana Gingras and Noam Gagnon (far left)
and the dancers of The Holy Body Tattoo's Monumental
Photo by Yannick Grandmont
The flyer makes its tantalizing claim: ”exhilarating contemporary dance that will leave its mark like a tattoo on the soul.” Canadian contemporary dance troupe The Holy Body tattoo, accompanied by the volcanic sound of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, contorts in brittle spasms of angst and violent confrontation, exposing the essential animalism of the human condition
Post Rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Photo by Yannick Grandmont
On the vast Festival Theatre stage, the combined magnetism of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the highly disciplined, precise and athletic movements of super-hip dance company The Holy Body Tattoo are played out in an evolving evolution  of contemporary dance sequences. Narrow shafts of light shine down upon the still forms upon shadowy plinths. A wave of flashing movement punctuates the sound shattering percussion of the band. Hands go to ears, unaware of the advice secreted at the entrance to the theatre that earplugs would be available because of the excessive sound levels of the show.

Monumental is an overwhelming assault on the sensations, as the figures on the plinth jerk suddenly, scratch and contort in a gradual progression to syncopated rhythms. Feet tap out their incessant beat and the figures are released from their plinths and eventually propelled into violent struggle and confrontation. The projections announce the decline of modern life, the fears, the distrust, the bleak and hopeless prophesies of doom.

Monumental. Photo by Chris randle
The dancers propel into a series of frenetic movements, while wind farms whirl upon the large projection screen, only to be displaced by the images of a fast-moving world that is gradually being consumed by humanity’s destruction of the environment. The individual turns against the tribe, struggling for survival and the Valley of Death runs rivers of blood. Monumental offers a dire warning to the world and the human becomes a powerless victim of an inevitable fate.
Throughout the performance the audience watches, riveted by the physical stamina and growing freneticism of the dance. A solo artist whirls in dervish frenzy. Another hurls himself rolling across the stage. A female dancer is violated by the aggressive male and the dark elements of the human condition combine in every gesture and tightly choreographed movement  . The moments of stillness heighten the curiosity and suspense, as the band behind builds the foreboding mood with pounding percussion and strident electric sound.  It is the oracle of a world on the edge of destruction.
Monumental. Photo by Chris Randle
Sculptural in its stillness and vital in its bold athleticism, The Holy Body Tattoo constructs a powerful and frightening reality through its contemporary dance, and I leave the theatre with the music still echoing through my body and the images still swirling about my brain. The quote on the flyer has lived up to its claim.