Australian Dance Reviews

Slow Dances for Fast Times

Carriageworks, Sydney
March 6 2013

By Elizabeth Ashley.

In Slow Dances for Fast Times Australian choreographer and dancer Martin del Amo brings his vision of contemporary dance to Sydney’s Carriageworks.  This current performance continues Carriageworks’ commitment to encouraging and creating a space for creative, experimental and fringe works to be showcased.

Across a spectrum of 12 dance portraits, Martin del Amo explores and plays with the various faces of contemporary dance, reminding us that contemporary dance is not all abstraction and aesthetics. On the contrary, we discover through this work that it has the ability to make us laugh, cry, cringe, relate to and question.

Del Amo plays with his signature animalistic movements, placing each of his ‘animals’ firmly in their own particular environment. The strong naturalistic movement experienced in del Amo’s Anatomy of an Afternoon has shifted to a slightly more stylized level, and yet there remains a sense that we are in a zoo observing the rituals of particular animals in their own habitat.

Across these 12 solos del Amo creates a balanced and entertaining production – constantly leaving the audience wondering what will come next.

Elizabeth Ryan dancing to the Regina Spektor song Fidelity, opens the evening with a highly stylized and geometric piece where she moves within less than one square meter of floor space. Dressed semi-formally in high heels and a dress, Ryan uses her head, upper body and arms to create geometric shapes within which she seems to be confined, or within which she confines herself. As she balances delicately, at times on one leg, and slowly turns her head to catch the shafts of light, this is a preening bird matched by the delicate upbeat tempo of the music.

In contrast, Raghav Handa immediately draws us into an emotionally charged spiritual piece bringing to mind indigenous cultures. With music by Antony and the Johnsons, Handa explores his habitat with dignity and a strong, circling fluid attachment to the earth.

Abba’s The Day Before you Came provides the inspiration for the solo of a middle-aged office worker, portrayed by Julie-Anne Long. Long evokes the spiral of banality and eternal sameness of the working day, turning and moving around the space in her brown practical work shoes and tweed skirt. With maturity and elegance Long uses stylised balletic arm positions and carefully placed steps to draw us into a mesmerising spiral.

Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal displays a humorous uncertainty ‘dancing’ to Spanish pop, Soy Infeliz, using dexterity and almost a Rowan Atkinson comic style in attempting to strike various dance poses whilst navigating her long structured evening dress.

With a showcase of diverse talent, Slow Dances for Fast Times demonstrates the breadth and depth of the local contemporary dance talent we have currently in Sydney. We see a diversity of experience and age as well as dancers of different shapes and sizes with plenty of multicultural flavour, allowing del Amo to forge a dialogue between the dance world and our contemporary city.

The minimalist sets and effective lighting means the eye is caught between watching the actual dancer or becoming captivated by the dancing shadows. Was this perhaps a deliberate foil by del Amo? As in Plato’s cave are we enraptured by the shadows of ideas or the infinite chaos of the real world? Does one remain in the actual/real world or escape to the abstract, aesthetic realm and avoid being confronted with some powerfully portrayed emotions?

Is he drawing an analogy of contemporary dance? For all its abstract and stylized beauty, the impetus and creative source is founded well and truly in real life – through the 12 portraits he explores loneliness, the daily humdrum of life, frustration, spirituality and humour.

Each dancer acquitted themselves with technical strength and an emotional range, connecting with the audience…no snoring from this full house of rapt attendees.  Downside? Slow Dances for Fast Times was over all too soon despite it being a full 1.25 hours.

Photo (top): Dancer Elizabeth Ryan,  Slow Dances for Fast Times by Martin del Amo

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