Confusion most certainly lives up to its name. This piece is not dance in the traditional sense; in fact it is decidedly the opposite. “Jo Lloyd’s practice seeks to find a language that refuses the limits of history and culture, of form and aesthetic.” It is in understanding this idea that this work may be enjoyed.
The piece begins in a brightly-lit Arts House theatre, as the dancers casually enter the space. Two of the three performers then put on some sneakers leave the room, only to enter moments later and promptly remove said footwear. Much is placed in the putting on and subsequent removal of shoes.
Jo Lloyd’s choreography is almost incomprehensible; the first section comprised of short solo bursts of a flailing, unusual movement. Using the geometry of the tarquette, the performers often wait at the corners of the space, watching or literally communicating with their cast mates.
It is interesting to observe how the dancers use their obvious technique and facility, without ever displaying it outright in the traditional sense. Rebecca Jensen, Shian Law and Lloyd herself can be (and are) applauded for their focus and extreme commitment to the language of Confusion. Their synchronicity and connection is especially impressive considering the unfamiliar aesthetic they embody.
l felt at times l had travelled to a distant planet to observe what dancing is in another world. Distant, yet familiar, it felt like an absurd dream where suddenly friends are speaking a distorted, alien version of my own language, where communication is laboured and barely possible.
It was during an increasingly complex phrase work section that you can notice the piece is, in fact, heavily choreographed. To the untrained eye, Confusion may initially look like yet another roll-on-the-floor meaningless piece of contemporary dance, but it is truly much more substantial. The phrase work deftly flows between quasi unison, canon, and complete chaos in a writhing continuum.
Presumably deliberate, an exciting set piece was used for an excruciatingly short time, especially compared to the lulling length of the preceding sections. Hanging from the roof is a contraption that’s part sex swing, part climbing rope and part actual swing, with all three dancers stacked upon one-another, swaying momentarily across the room.
Themes, images and motifs are brought back cleverly at the conclusion in a more sinister and distressing light, along with the floor ripped from beneath their feet. This is punctuated by barely audible speech throughout, growing more concerned as the piece goes on, in private conversation between each other.
l feel as though Jennifer Hector’s lighting design is perhaps too severe. I understand its purpose to expose the performers and include the audience in the space, but I feel it slightly prevents the audience from fully connecting. I also wished for more variety in the lighting, there was only one shift, albeit at the perfect time as the space is literally torn apart. The design itself was balanced and perfectly executed, however.
The music composed especially for Confusion by Duane Morrison combines exquisite electronic ambience and arpeggiotic piano that suits the piece. Towards the conclusion the music may have benefited from exaggerated dissonance. Particularly impressive (if my observation is correct) is that the music was mixed live.
The costumes are deliberately garish, which is sadly off-putting, despite the appropriate imagery. There are displays of both male and female semi-nudity, which compliments the freedom inherent in the choreography. It non-sexualized, female, upper body nudity offends you, it’s 2015 and is art, grow up and deal with it.
Confusion invites you to develop your own thoughts and feelings, so I cannot speak for your personal enjoyment on the performance. Perhaps take this advice: don’t expect a traditional entertainment, don’t even try take in the individual movements. Instead, feel the texture of the whole, enjoy the experience and let yourself be taken away. Otherwise you may like to appreciate the specificity of the movement and the pure athleticism showcased.
As for its objective qualities, I believe some of the imagery – whilst true to its intention – too much avoids the traditionally aesthetic. However, choreographically and structurally, Confusion is an exquisitely designed artwork and revels beautifully in this non-traditionalism.