GLOW / PuSh International Performing Arts Festival Chunky Move (Melbourne)

Dates 31 January 2 February 2008 @ 7pm and @ 9pm Venue ScotiaBank Dance Centre

Concept & Choreography Gideon Obarzanek Concept & Interactive Design System Freider Weiss Music & Sound Luke Smiles Costume Paula Levis Dancers Kristy Ayre / Sara Black

Reviewer J H Stape

Dedicated to exploring boundaries, The PuSh Festival, could have invited no more appropriate a contributor than Melbourne's Chunky Move whose "choreographic essay" Glow redefines the cutting edge of dance. Indeed, this half-hour piece is so brilliant and original that it begs for a new critical vocabulary to describe -- and to praise -- it. Lavish praise is often suspect, but this is an absolutely "must see" for anyone with the least interest in dance or in postmodern theatre or thought.

Dance is often the ugly duckling of the art forms, cannibalizing other genres to present a conventional narrative line. Stories and representationality are still being rehashed and retold with the narrative tyranny still holding sway over a form that ought to be the free-est of all from story-telling, which it does, usually, with immense clumsiness: hands held on hearts and tears wiped away with gigantic gestures, the stuff of laughter, not reverie.

In this dance piece, to the contrary, one enters a hallucinatory or dreamworld of infinite possibility, the dancer poised on a glowing rectangle, and inscribing on it by her movements shapes, lines, blotches.

Most of the time, her body becomes an instrument for writing these and she lies on the floor, standing rarely. At other times, the technology writes on her, and as she moves forms and shapes take over her body. (The sidebar and topbar on this page are static and pale representations of the fluid "glowing" that this piece achieves: Click Glow for a video clip.)

At times the dancer moans or sighs. Once she seems to speak in some kind of language, articulate but un-understandable. Both pre-human and non-human, she at moments resembles a foetus, but that is too restrictive and too limiting an image category.

She ... It ... draws upon the rectangle with her arms, her legs, her whole body, the images at times disturbing, at times aesthetically moving: lines in black emerge and fade.

These drawings are accompanied by sounds but not by any recognizable music; there are techno-blips and bleeps, as freely random as the images created by the interaction of the computer and the dancer/creature.

Gideon Obarzanek and his creative team issue a challenge to the audience to rethink the performance of movement, light, and space in dynamic interaction. This coruscatingly brilliant dance piece, composed of computer-generated algorithms in combination with a sentient being beggars description even more than most abstract, non-representational art.

If you're lucky enough to catch Glow during its brief run -- and Canadian première -- you'll be ready to go out and burn the nearest tutu and jeer at a perfectly achieved grand plié in a liberating gesture of defiance, for Glow not only breaks new ground, but is also a constantly evocative journey, its brief half-hour likely permanently to transform the way you apprehend dance and dancing. Yeah, it really is mind-altering ... and an utter roller-coaster descent into the unlimited world of the imagination.

© 2008 J H Stape