Australian Dance Reviews

‘A Small Spectacle’: A glimpse of an artist coping during COVID lockdown

'A Small Spectacle' with Phaedra Brown.

7 – 9 March 2021. 
Online, as part of March Dance. 

A Small Spectacle is a solo show, created and performed by Phaedra Brown in a small inner-city share house in collaboration with Gabriel Sinclair (composer, musician) and Aidan Bondfield (musician).

'A Small Spectacle' with Phaedra Brown.
‘A Small Spectacle’ with Phaedra Brown.

Mixing dance, architecture, costume, sculpture and sound, A Small Spectacle examines the concept of what is ‘spectacular’. It also explores the nature of (self) identity and the use of interior domestic space and how the body is  perceived. The costumes have been remodelled from what was in the house, and the house itself has also been reworked for the event, looking at how the space both restricts movement but also provides a space to be explored. It also uses social media and video conferencing; there is use of a split screen to provide different angles and points of view. Tiny movements (of the hand, for example ) are used, as well as sculptural poses. It is very concentrated, intimate and revealing. 

The first section of the work sees Brown in an 18th century ‘royal‘ purple and white costume with orange garters, mask and a ‘crown’ of toilet rolls. Brown strikes various sculptural poses and bows. She struts as if on a catwalk, there are various fast movements as if fighting, and she collapses on the floor. 

Then, we cut to Brown’s bedroom — very tidy and white —  and she stretches using one set of bedroom furniture and stands on a chair, removing the ‘crown’ and rest of the costume, stripping down to black underwear and changing into a blue tracksuit. In in-depth closeup, we see her take her makeup off and messy hair. 

'A Small Spectacle' with Phaedra Brown.
‘A Small Spectacle’ with Phaedra Brown.

The next section is of Brown slowly descending the staircase again, utilizing and staying very close to the handrail. For this part, she wears a white mask and does a headstand. This section is then extended and repeated, going back up and down the stairs and sitting and with sculptural movements on the landing and small movements of the hands. Then there is a segment with Brown brushing her hair to one side, reclimbing the stairs and doing a ‘bridge’ movement on the landing.

Brown then slithers face down the stairs (ouch!), then again on her back. Stretching movements are performed. 

Blackout, then cut to the bedroom, where the mood is party-like. Brown appears excited, and to current dance music, she removes her tracksuit and mask and jumps into grey tracksuit pants. Also in detailed closeup, she redoes her makeup and hair. 

The work explores how we cope during COVID lockdown and how artists continue to create during enforced isolation.

By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa. 

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