Eyes Wide: STRUT dance – In Short and Virtuosi

Unkempt Dance Image:  Darren Smith
Unkempt Dance
Image: Darren Smith

STRUT Dance has been busy this month with an open dance platform called Eyes Wide which showcased all manner of interesting contemporary dance pieces, workshops and films at the King Street Arts Centre. They’ve let us into the studio to see works in progress and, in some cases, have asked the audience to participate directly in a piece’s creation.

The final weekend featured a series of eight short compositions presented and curated by Unkempt Dance in association with STRUT called In Short.

A Few Minutes of Your Time – devised by Quindell Orton

Before entering the venue the audience was asked to complete a form suggesting small, specific tasks that could be completed without props, by a person of any age and normal physical ability. Once inside, the organisers passed the completed forms back out to the audience at random. There was a timer/stopwatch projected onto the wall that determined how long we were supposed to do each movement. Guided by this ‘we’ became the performers, doing silly things dictated by our anonymous fellow choreographers to Wheatus’s song “Teenage Dirtbag”.  All the time one of the organisers was filming us with a video camera. It was a great way to warm up the audience and a fun little social experiment to boot.

A Dance with no home – choreographed and performed by Emma Fishwick

A solo piece with projected moving images and voice over, this was an exploration of meaning and context, or lack thereof, in dance pieces. There was a lot of interesting use of light from different angles so that Fishwick’s form created two shadows that became a second and then a third dancer. A playful piece that raised some interesting questions about “what is art?’

something foreign – created and performed by Isabella Stone and Ella-Rose Trew

A duet that explores the idea of the space between the real world and the world in one’s imagination. This was an interesting pairing of dancers; there was a certain amount of tension that stemmed from two quite physically different movers, which lent itself well to the piece’s themes.

With Company, created and performed by Storm Helmore with collaborator James McIntosh

A monologue with movement exploring the DNA of gesture and movement. Helmore turned tics, gestures, what looked like sign language, and broader movements into a kind of visual music as she performed a monologue about how genetics play a role in the way we move. A beautiful, precise, intelligent piece that blurred lines between types of movement and also between theatre and dance.

The Space Between – choreographed by Ashleigh Berry, performed with Emma Fishwick and Nicole Ward

A trio that began on a bench, with the three performers shifting and repositioning themselves, each trying to get more space on the bench. One performer finally succeeds in claiming the whole bench for herself. This was followed by a dance done in front of a projected film where the dancers were featured in various spots around Perth’s cultural centre, either moving or fixed in one spot, as city life and city dwellers went on about their business around them. The dance then took a different approach as the women played still with the notion of space between bodies, as people were forced to move around each other in public spaces.

Qualia – choreographed and performed by Natalie Allen and Richard Chilli

This was a sharply funny piece that took aim at the forms, memes and structure of contemporary dance. These two performers were beautiful to watch, very in tune with each other, and nearly perfectly in sync. Although it was largely comedic and satirical, they managed also to bring the work back to something earnest.

(Untitled) – choreographed by Yilin Kong, performed by Storm Helmore, Tyrone Robinson, Isabella Stone, and Ella-Rose Trew

This piece was not as specific in its aim and intention as some of the other pieces, but there were some sequences that were reminiscent of Steve Reich’s Piano Phase where the four dancers synced up, fell out of sync, and then synced up again.

Either, Either, choreographed and performed by Louise Honeybul and Linton Aberle

This piece had a dialogue component prior to the dance. The two dramatised the tension and release of two people caught up in learning the dynamics of their relationship, with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s fantastic duet “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” providing the backing track for much of the piece.

And finally, after the last piece and before the entire group took their bows, we were treated to the video footage of ourselves from the beginning of the evening. This was a great bonus after this enjoyable series of short dances; it allowed the audience to get back into that giddy, silly space and ended the evening on a positive, communal, shared-experience note.

Video still of Lisa Densem by Sue Healey
Video still of Lisa Densem by Sue Healey

Another highlight was Sue Healey’s feature-length documentary Virtuosi

The film offers an honest and loving insight into the lives of eight New Zealand dance artists scattered across the globe; living and working in Berlin, London, New York, Sydney, Melbourne, Townsville and Brussels. The disparate styles and locales on display in Healey’s film are fascinating, and although some of the dancers talk about a quite distinct New Zealand style, I was impressed at how distinct each dancer was from the other.

This work focuses on the winding career pathways of these artists, and attempts to define the reality of what a working dancer-choreographer’s life is like. The cinematography is beautiful and the music by Mike Nock is so well paired with each sequence, that it seemed like it was composed specifically for the film. Not the case.  Healey confirmed later in the Q&A that she had chosen each piece from Nock’s vast body of already-written work to perfectly match the film.

Healey also talked a bit about the process of filming with each dancer. She explained that just prior to filming with each individual, she gave them certain tasks to perform while shooting, such as “create a still life” using objects around you in your dwelling. Another task was to create a dance around an iconic location in their city. This often resulted in some serendipitous moments of interesting juxtaposition between dancer and environment.

The film is a wonderful tribute to her fellow artists and expats, with some very funny moments, courtesy of Ross McCormack and some beautiful footage from all around the world.

Cicely Binford

Cicely originally hails from Dallas, deep in the heart of Texas, USA. She graduated from Texas Woman's University with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama. While at university, she had the opportunity to explore as many aspects of the theatre world as she could fit under her belt, both as a performer, as well as in a number of different design and technical roles. After moving to Australia in 2007, she found herself back in the theatre world, performing, designing, and even directing once again, with a passion rekindled by the increasingly vibrant theatre and performing arts scene in Perth. She is also an avid photographer and can often be found around town at various performing arts events with a camera strapped to her neck. Her aim is to have her finger on the thriving pulse of the arts scene in WA through participation and immersion in everything it has to offer.

Cicely Binford

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