Monday, September 12, 2022

EXPLICIT CONTENTS - Gorman Arts Centre.

Ivey Wawn and David Huggins in "Explicit Contents"
Image: Lucy Parakhina

Choreographed for Rhiannon Newton – Music and Sound design by Peter Lenaerts..

Lighting design by Karne Norris – Costume design by Agnes Choi.

Performed by Ivey Wawn and David Huggins

QL2 Dance Theatre, Gorman Arts Centre. 9th & 10th September.

Performance on the 10th September reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Although Canberra boasts a thriving local dance scene, and the city often plays host to major dance companies, opportunities to see the work of emerging professional choreographers happen relatively rarely. Therefore these performances in the QL2 studios at the Gorman Arts Centre, produced by Katy Green Loughrey, provided a welcome opportunity to experience the work of Sydney/Canberra based choreographer, Rhiannon Newton. 

This work, “Explicit Contents”, was premiered at the 2021 Sydney Festival and performed in the Sydney Dance Company’s inaugural INDance program. It was also performed at Dancehouse Melbourne.

In her program notes Newton explains that the work was born of her desire to “emphasise how bodies are not separate from but inextricably connected to their environments”.  She goes on to explain that she envisioned “Explicit Contents” as “a series of sensorial encounters, each amplifying a different material or energetic connection between the body and the world”.

Promoted as an invigorating and cutting-edge contemporary dance work, it came as something of a surprise to discover that the work contained very little of what could actually be described as dance.  The bulk of the work consisted largely of a series of long, dimly lit tableaus, performed by the dancers in ultra-slow motion, mostly in unison.

These tableaus were often quite beautiful; bringing to mind Bill Viola artworks as the dancers slowly performed various tasks, their bodies enhanced by a superb lighting design by Karen Norris, which allowed the audience to focus on the movement of their musculature.

David Huggins devours a mango
Image - Gregory Lorenzutti

The sequences were separated by extended periods of complete darkness, to allow the performers to change position or to add or remove items of costume before being slowly revealed for the next sequence.

Often the lighting was so dim that the audience had to peer deeply to try and make out what the dancers were actually doing.  One task required them lie on the floor, stretch their bodies and turn slowly. For another they simply sat, leg’s crossed, and devoured a piece of fruit in real time.  Another required each to balance a clear glass bowl of water on their stomachs and undulate the bowls with their stomach muscles.  


Ivey Wawn - David Huggins
Image: Lucy Parakhina.

For the finale, the two dancers held the bowls above their heads, upturned them and allowed the water to pour over their bodies. Then, following another lengthy black out, they were revealed twirling on their bottoms in the water on the floor, possibly nude, but the lights were too low to be sure.  

Following one final long drowse-inducing black-out to allow them to dry off and gather some clothes, the dancers took their bows, leaving at least one bemused member of the audience in awe of the endurance of two obviously highly trained dancers - pleased to have recognised the sensorial encounters - pondering on why contemporary dance has so much trouble attracting audiences -wondering if the choreographer had achieved her stated aims - and what had happened to the promised invigorating contemporary dance bit - but pleased to have had the opportunity to experience a cutting-edge contemporary dance work. .