Review: Dancendents (PACT Centre For Emerging Artists)

pactVenue: PACT Theatre (Erskineville NSW), June 17 – 20, 2015
Choreographers: Flatline, Leah Landau, Rhiannon Newton
Cast: Flatline, Leah Landau, Rhiannon Newton
Image by Matt Cornell

Theatre review
In the search for a definition of art, Flatline’s work Drawn To Move relies on the exposure of process in dance choreography to give meaning to a completed work. Two pencil scribblings are displayed on a wall, emulating archetypal notions of the art establishment. From a fine art perspective, the pieces are primitive and ugly, but in the live drawing of the third, the creators reveal the rationale behind the pieces, rendering irrelevant the commodified hanging objects, and shifting attention to the dance, and time, behind the inanimate finished products.

In a charming parallel, Rhiannon Newton’s Assemblies For One Body is concerned with using the rehearsal process quite literally, to present a performance piece. Newton goes through repetitive movements, with facial expressions and an eyeline that demonstrates an inward focus, as she seeks to unlock motion and gesture for reaching an intangible target of perfection. Without the presentational vocabulary of a conventional show, Newton relies on an enduring vitality to keep her audience engaged. We are drawn in by the energy of her tenacious commitment in exploring body and space, and she fascinates us with an intelligent juxtaposition of sounds (rhythmic and otherwise) with her physicality. We can never fully grasp Newton’s mental processes in each moment, but she certainly encourages us to form personal narratives and interpretations in the presence of her visual elucidations.

Leah Landau’s approach in Summer Bone is decidedly different. Inspired by ideas about nature, wildlife, farming and food, the work is underlined by a serious and earnest environmental concern, but with manifestations on stage that are humorous and thoroughly whimsical. Landau creates language with her body, and communicates persuasively, basic concepts of conservation, that would otherwise struggle to find sophistication in more conventional paradigms. It is hard to find new perspectives on long-standing issues, but art can establish new depictions so that we understand them with refreshed interest. Beyond its political message, Landau’s is a delightful piece of physical theatre that captures imagination, and amuses sight. It is dance that breaks a few rules, so that we come to a renewed appreciation of the artist’s passions.

When theatre abandons narrative, we see more clearly, why we do the things we do, and what it means to make art. Modern life is all but usurped by capitalism, and we forget our humanity outside its gluttonous and all-consuming monetary imperatives. Reading abstract dance, is to explore reasons behind human behaviour. Allowing incoherence to transpire, within the restrain of truth, will deliver a kind of beauty and transcendental pleasure that is unique to the art form, and it is in its embrace that we are reminded of the deeper and more rewarding facets of life.