Rhiannon Newton’s latest offering, Bodied Assemblies is an exploration of body, self and space. The performers wander into the space in silence, take a position, and begin to ever so slowly stretch out and change position, so slowly that as you looked away to watch one of the three performers, when your gaze returned to each, they had changed shape and muscle tensions. Accompanied by the gentlest use of a gong I’ve ever heard, composed by Bree van Reyk and played by Leah Scholes, there is a real mediative quality to this performance.
The performers are accomplished, as one would need to be to hold these poses and the tension in their bodies, going from ever so slowly stretching to strenuously holding themselves taught and still, before becoming more and more active and physical. Bhenji Ra, Ivey Wawn and Julian Renlong Wong navigate the small upstairs space of Dancehouse well, and perform with strong focus.
The performance has an unfinished feeling to it, like a series of warm up exercises strung together, so we feel a little bit like we’re still waiting for the main performance. There is a strange transition in the middle, almost an act two mark, where the first half of the performance finishes, and the performers stop, get a drink of water, but wave away the audience’s applause as if to say ‘What are you doing, we’re not done yet”. The second part of the performance becomes a high energy, almost ‘out at the club’ like dancing, before winding down again. The movements become animalistic, and somewhat hypnotic in their franticness, but the movements are almost childish, unstructured and silly looking, which is hard to tell whether that is what Newton was going with for her choreography. Two of the dancers always remain in sync and in time with each other, with the other dancer always a little bit behind the pace, or a little slow to pick up the movements and changes in the show. There’s also a drama class feel to the show’s content- not unlike a catch the word, or catch the dance move style activity you do to prove you can be in sync with your fellow students, and this works to varying degrees throughout the second part of the show.
The performance is initially only accompanied by a gong, and developing into a wide variety of percussion and drums. Unfortunately, this silence and stillness, while lovely and relaxing, also means that every movement, cough, and chair scrape from the audience is clearly audible, almost echoing throughout the space. Van Reyk’s composition is the pace and heart of the show and the sounds and music played by Scholes are the strongest element of the show, but it does remind me a yoga or meditation style soundtrack.
Lighting is minimal but well used, but initially the show is without any additional lighting, with the late afternoon sun streaming in the window, before moving to simple yellow and white lighting that moves through the space on an arch shaped lighting rig that is activated from one side of the room to another, creating a feeling of movement which is accompanied by the performers, who rotate in a clockwise direction around the space, playing out to the audience which are arranged in a circle around the centre of the room.
If this show was a metaphor, it is for we all are born, spend an extensive time discovering our bodies, go clubbing and die; in this sense the show captures a fleetingness and the beauty and tension of a single moment, and a journey.
Bodied Assemblies plays until 19 March at Dancehouse in Carlton North. Tickets at: http://dancemassive.com.au/program/bodied-assemblies/