Australian Dance Reviews

Moving at a pace to allow for breath: Martin del Amo’s ‘Mirage’

Martin del Amo's 'Mirage'. Photo by Heidrun Lohr.
Martin del Amo's 'Mirage'. Photo by Heidrun Lohr.

Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney. 
7 January 2022.

Mirage premiered at the Campbelltown Arts Centre on 7 January. It was originally intended to run as a part of Sydney Festival 2022 but withdrew from the festival at the last minute due to a protest on funding issues with the festival, which multiple artists have boycotted this year. 

Mirage is choreographed and directed by Martin del Amo, in collaboration with Dance Artist Miranda Wheen. Mirage is a shared solo, that explores the concepts of mirages, optical illusion, memory, in metaphor. It is strongly influenced by the musical accompaniment piano and string quartet by avant-garde composer Morton Feldman, which is performed live by the Enigma Quartet and pianist Sonya Lifschitz.

The work is set on a bare, striking, white stage with white walls, with the musicians seated upstage, behind a see-through white curtain. The musical accompaniment and setting, along with the lighting (designed by Rowena Macneish), are probably the most outstanding aspects of the work. They set the atmosphere, and it was an absolute treat to have live accompaniment with such skill, and the lighting had such an intuitive voice about it, bringing out all the beautiful aspects of a sparse stage with solo dancers. 

For the most part, del Amo and Wheen alternate in the space, with the end section having them in the space together, but never openly relating to each other, hence the concept of shared solo. They dress almost identical (Wheen’s top a slightly lighter shade that del Amo’s), in earthy tones and white runners. The work opens with del Amo, exploring his proximal space, starting small and slowly building up. It stays at the same pace the entire work, as we watch him explore the space around him. It is the same with Wheen. There is no light and shade, just a measured-type pace throughout the 80-minute work. They move in a light, relaxed and curious feel that is maintained throughout the work, in a meditative-like state. Exploring familiar and unfamiliar movements and pathways, always focused, always considering, del Amo and Wheen bring a bare-bones work that breaks each moment down and sits in the centre of each contemplation, weaving, exploring, repeating, mirroring, revisiting. 

In some ways, watching someone explore their space is mesmerising. On the other hand, there is a certain stamina required to watch a work like this, and it is not for the casual dance audience. Eighty mintues of almost mind-numbing regularity, nothing fast, nothing slow, just measured movement, a signature of modality that often follows del Amo throughout his body of work. It felt we were in a slow-moving painting, a work that requires an extremely high level of maturity from the performers, and likewise the audience.  

It will be a different experience each performance, with del Amo and Wheen alternating in which parts they perform, somewhat referencing a Cunningham-esque choreographic/performance experience. For a slow-burn work that moves at a pace to allow for breath, processing, and nothing too fast or overwhelming to the senses, this is one to watch.  

By Linda Badger of Dance Informa.

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