|Ivey Wawn and David Huggins in "Explicit Contents"
Image: Lucy Parakhina
for Rhiannon Newton – Music and Sound design by Peter Lenaerts..
design by Karne Norris – Costume design by Agnes Choi.
Ivey Wawn and David Huggins
Theatre, Gorman Arts Centre. 9th & 10th September.
on the 10th September reviewed by Bill Stephens.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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. .