Australian Dance Reviews

March Dance brings an intriguing double dance bill

Omer Backley-Astrachan’s Terrarium. Photo by Natalia Cartney.
Omer Backley-Astrachan’s Terrarium. Photo by Natalia Cartney.

East Sydney Community and Arts Centre, Sydney.
15 March 2019.

This was an intriguing double bill of cutting edge contemporary dance as part of March Dance festival.

First up was Patricia Wood’s Transmission Solo: tools for telepathy and conjuring sensation, “an experimental dance performance that incorporates radio transmission as a source of poetics, transmitting movement across time, space and social memory.”

Wood is an amazing performer. She wore black leggings and a grey top. The rather esoteric work included a diagonal crawl on the floor, on demi-pointe dragging one leg then the other (then backward to centre stage). Also whirling with straight arms outstretched, contrasted with flat, frieze-like segments of choreography. In another segment, long arms and legs are pointed and become clock- or machine-like. At one stage, Wood pivots with her long straight arms that eventually rise above her head then fall dynamically again. 

About half of the work is performed barefoot; then there is a pause while she puts her socks and boots on. Then she poses dramatically with a long electronic transmission pole and momentarily dances with it like a partner.

There is then a conversation on a walkie-talkie between Wood and an unseen mysterious “Other”, but as Wood mostly had her back to us, a lot of it was mumbled and inaudible.

Omer Backley-Astrachan’s Terrarium. Photo by Natalia Cartney.

Omer Backley-Astrachan’s Terrarium. Photo by Natalia Cartney.

There was yet more use of subdued lighting as Wood put down the transmission pole and returned to just behind centre stage with feline, flowing yet circular, movements around the circle of light that also included the use of a deep plié and some sudden sharp small jumps at the end.

Omer Backley-Astrachan’s Terrarium began, ended and was interspersed with the cast of four (Allie Graham, Jess Goodfellow, Renata Commisso and Sharon Backley-Astrachan) standing in a line in their off white short shifts centre stage with one hand on their hip staring defiantly at the audience. They don’t move while a fast, infectious short dance piece of recorded harpsichord music is played. Terrarium is apparently “a series of short stories, each delving into a different aspect of life, love and death.” There is a feeling that the cast can see something just beyond us – are they searching for it or are they afraid? In one segment, there is audible gasping for breath and the dancers flee as if attacked. There is a quite intense atmosphere. Sometimes the dancers have short mini solos; at others, there are duos and/or trios. At one point, it is as if one of the group is being ostracised. Backley-Astrachan’s choreography includes sinuous, slinky movements and demands a very flexible spine. Falling and rising to/from the floor movements are included, as are writhing and pulsating as a seething group, for example. Frozen tableaux are included, too. Early in the piece, there is a duo that becomes a trio which, with its cool poses, made me think of Nijinsky’s Jeux perhaps.

Both works were striking, innovative and thought-provoking.

By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.

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