Sumner Theatre, Melbourne
October 9, 2014
By Paul Ransom of Dance Informa.
You know when you’re in the presence of pure class. It shines through in texture, in courage, in unapologetic passion and intellect. From very early on in Anouk van Dijk and Falk Richter’s human installation Complexity Of Belonging, it becomes apparent that you are about to witness high concept art-making at its finest.
On one level, we’ve seen much of this before: dance and theatre merging, movement, music, text and video all working together. You could even apply the clichés of interdisciplinary, multimedia and cross-platform works if you wish. However, these would utterly fail to convey the impact of this rich, confronting and, at times, hilarious work.
At it’s core, it explores what it’s title suggests, the rapidly evolving/devolving nature of family, community and relationship in a world being reshaped by technology and changing social norms. By weaving together the nine individual narratives of the performers, Complexity creates a deeply-layered vision of isolation and “belonging” in an obviously atomised world. Although each character appears almost disturbingly self-obsessed, they are all in the process of reaching out. Indeed, by the end, we are presented with an impression of profound, and perhaps universal, longing.
Complexity is also a very brave work. It makes no excuses for it’s philosophical density or emotional brutality, veering from ontological analysis to paint-peeling primal cries. It ruffles feathers, knocks off scabs and offers no neatly packaged solutions.
There is also something avowedly European about the work. Aside from the clearly Brechtian moments when we are reminded that we are watching an artifice, it maintains great restraint. The choreography is sparing, the score powerfully minimal and the use of production trickery disciplined and purposeful. And this allows Falk Richter’s superb text it’s full effect.
It’s easy to highlight Lauren Langlois’ brilliantly comic and somewhat scary rant about “what I want in a man” as the most memorable moment, but James Vu Anh Pham’s unsettling and savagely honest deconstruction of latent racism is probably the most powerful.
In short, Complexity Of Belonging proves just how rewarding (intellectually and emotionally) dance and theatre can be. The Richter/van Dijk combination has delivered beautifully on it’s promise. No surprise that this work will grace the world stage after it’s premiere season here in Melbourne. Like I said – pure class.
Photo (top): Complexity Of Belonging. Photo by Jeff Busby.