Australian Dance Reviews

High-tech combination of dance and film: Sue Healey’s ‘On View: Panoramic Suite’

Sue Healey's 'On View: Panoramic Suite'.
Sue Healey's 'On View: Panoramic Suite'.

Streaming online as part of Liveworks Digital.
24 October 2021.

Eight years in the making, Sue Healey’s On View: Panoramic Suite is a high-tech challenging combination of dance and film as part of the Liveworks festival at Carriageworks. Healey has choreographed and overseen the work, shot by aerial drone and moving cameras to build a seven split-screen video installation combined with live performance including 25 dancers of all ages (up to 107!). Dancers and styles come from Australia, Japan and Hong Kong. Butoh is blended with contemporary style and that of First Nations. (We see Elma Kris of Bangarra, for example.) On View: Panoramic Suite explores the relationship between dance, nature and country, and meditates on life and death.

Eminent dancers Martin del Amo and Nalina Wait act as our hosts so to speak. We observe  the various montages of film through their eyes, and the film includes music by percussionist Laurence Pike and a score by Darrin Verhagen. The music blends harmoniously with the live and film footage. Healey explores the physicality of dance, challenging the performers.  

Mention must also be made of the delicate, elaborate hanging thread portraits by Jane Theau. There is a tautness in Theau’s work (evoking Javanese shadow puppets) between immovable and transitory, permeable and substantial. Both the huge cavernous spaces and intimate areas of Carriagworks are used, and shadow effects are important. The dancers at times appear to slip, slide and fall down the wall as shadows that change shape. We then see them ‘live’ and via projections; they are nervous and tense as if being followed. 

Sue Healey's 'On View: Panoramic Suite'.
Sue Healey’s ‘On View: Panoramic Suite’.

Healey’s oeuvre often examines the idea of being observed. We hear voiceovers regarding deeply rooted worries regarding the audience’s gaze as voyeur, and acknowledging the performer’s function as an ‘expert in being seen.’ At one point, a drone is used above to show del Amo dancing with a sign reading ‘On View’. We also see him in another section in a cemetery.

There is a section when the various dancers are filmed interacting with animals (dog, turtle, fish, cockatoo, snake, fox, owl), and then del Amo is shown with a model goat! (As in scapegoat?) 

The interaction between performer and nature is further explored with, for example, a dancer in a whole body costume with sparkles as if from the water. There are major city site shots and dancers with them, but also most dancers are shown outside interacting with nature – fields, earth and rocks. 

In the final section, Nobuyoshi Asai has an extraordinary sequence where, in Butoh white and loincloth, he snakelike (Gollum-like?) crosses a bridge. There are close-ups of his hands, tongue and fingers as he performs a primal scream. He rattles the locked gate when he arrives on the other side with trembling hands. 

Eileen Kramer (now 107!) is lovingly, elegantly filmed sitting on a chair in a flowing white robe and performing fluid, controlled movements. With the use of split screen, we see her interact with a giant tree, almost  becoming’ the tree with its huge roots.

Elizabeth Cameron Dalman is also in white, with huge billowing pieces of cloth à la Loie Fuller (or a cockatoo in flight perhaps?). She is birdlike and whirling.

There are many interlocking interpretations of this most fascinating meditative piece.

By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.

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