Melbourne’s Chunky Move is one of Australia’s most highly – respected, contemporary dance companies. For more than twenty years, the award – winning team located in Southbank’s theatre precinct, has long established a reputation for creating pieces that are thought – provoking, game – changing and convention – pushing.
Since forming back in 1995, the organisation continues to build on its strong repertoire of stage, new – media and installation work. Past productions include Black Marrow, I Want To Dance Better At Parties, Mix Tape, and Tense Dave.
Chunky Move also tours on a regular basis around the world, performing in North America, The Far East, and Europe.
Narrative dance is an extremely challenging stream of the modern and classical art form. To achieve true victory, telling a valid story relies on so many interwoven components such as set design, costumes, sound, lighting and pace. When it succeeds, viewers are able to appreciate performance as both physical expression and a non – verbal language.
Chunky Move’s latest presentation, Anti – Gravity, is a collaboration with Ho Tzu Nyen, a Singaporean visual artist and film maker. Incorporating new – media and installation work into this dance, the concept may also be their most ambitious and rewarding production yet.
It should be noted that Nyen’s motion pictures are known for being slow – moving, a direct contrast to the company’s frenetic dance ethos. According to the program notes, such a major point of difference also provides the show’s primary focus. What we are witness to, is a result of these two polemic work practices fusing together.
Further, cloud formations are a continuing theme spread throughout the piece.
Capturing the limbo between gravity and elevation, these skyscapes represent the human body in motion. In this parallel setting of constant flux, humans endure tremendous pressure before settling back into a more conventional state. Such an artificial environment allows the dancers to lose themselves as it were, in spacious limbo.
Over the course of seventy minutes, one by one the performers apparently come to life.
Whether they are stacking rocks, browsing on a computer, or entranced by their own reflection, each is eventually called to a higher power. Respectively breaking free of their Sisyphean tasks, the dancers demonstrate tremendous discipline, innate musicality, and physical dexterity, both individually and as a collective.
James Batchelor, Marlo Benjamin, Sarah Ronnie Bruce, Tara Jade Samura, Niharika Senapati and Luigi Vescio alternate between solo and group moments in the spotlight. Their uniform commitment to this journey is impressive.
Standout segments include a passionate duo between Batchelor and Senapati, soon joined by Benjamin. Later, the entire team became one in a tribal crescendo, reminding this viewer of the famous painting, La Danse by Henri Matisse, in the flesh.
Anouk van Diij, (responsible for concept, choreography, direction and visual design), in tandem with Nyen (co – creator, concept and visual design) have executed a dance epic that fully utilizes the Merlyn Theatre’s vast floor space.
They are effortlessly supported by Paul Jackson (lighting and visual design), Jethro Woodward (composition and sound design) and Harriet Oxley (costume design). This shared vision is stark and simple, intelligently painting the stage with light and shade.
Woodward’s music in particular, has a pulsing energy similar to Philip Glass. Combined with Oxley’s sheer outfits (which allude to costumes for Martha Graham’s and Isadora Duncan’s respective companies), both highlight and add to the dancers’ overall fluidity.
Using elements such a back – projection, smoke machines, motorised step ladders and other oversized objects, places humans in deference to and control of these machines. It is a fascinating juxtaposition.
In the space of seventy minutes, Anti – Gravity seemingly encapsulates the history of human achievement and our very existence. The title may also take on a secondary meaning, in that it reinvents modern dance and its strict conventions for a twenty – first century audience.