Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse, Melbourne
March 16 2013
As part of Dance Massive
By Grace Edwards.
Chunky Move’s 247 Days is described as an “exploration of human dynamics within the context of a shifting Australian landscape.” The name 247 Days refers to the number of days the work took to gestate, and approximately the number of days choreographer Anouk van Dijk has spent in Australia. In this work, she explores the familiar theme of self and its significance within a wider world. In a sense, she is taking us on her latest journey, the well-worn migrant experience of trying to work out one’s new identity in a land of unfamiliar cultural norms.
Many aspects of this production are well conceived. The backdrop, a wall of mirrors, proves an effective device to explore ideas such as the interplay between the group and the individual, and self-image versus the true self. The dancers literally observe themselves, not recognising the reflection staring back or simply finding no reflection at all. The use of colour in the costume designs is also self-consciously harnessed to elucidate the personal transformations of the performers.
The dancers are clearly committed to the work and their vulnerability on stage provides strong testimony to their trust in van Dijk’s vision. Lauren Langlois and James Pham offer particularly notable performances, transforming the frequently off-centre balances, falls, tumbles, spins and inward foot flexions of van Dijk’s movement vocabulary into a physical metaphor for the negotiation of social forces and expectations beyond our control.
The same ideas are returned to again and again in different scenes, lending the work interest. Some passages, however, are consequently overly wrought, as though van Dijk did not quite trust that the audience would take away her message, whilst other, more fleeting, moments lack context. At one point in the work, Pham takes to the open microphone at the front of the stage to speak openly of love. Meanwhile, his colleague contorts his face in the background. Apart from distracting from the meaning of Pham’s words, the intent behind this act was decidedly unclear and the overall effect was rather random, if not a little comical. A minor criticism perhaps, but unnecessary moments like this peppered the work and made it seem somewhat indulgent.
Perhaps van Dijk’s major obstacles, if 247 Days is anything to go by, stem from the very issue which inspired this work; her tendency to crowd out the more conceptually interesting passages whilst overextending some of the lesser sequences is perhaps a sign that van Dijk’s is still finding her voice. Nonetheless, van Dijk’s choreography style is exciting and distinctive on the Australian landscape, and it will be very interesting to watch how her choreography evolves over the course of her promising career with Chunky Move.