A wonderfully engaging, theatrical piece by Jozsef Trefeli and Gabor Varga, Creature is a work about origins, tackling ethnographic material in a way that places the contemporary dance practice under the microscope. Using traditional Hungarian dance and song, this short, sharp 40 minute dance presentation is an unmissable performance at the Carlton Baths.
One born in Australia, and one in the former USSR, the shared Hungarian heritage of Trefeli and Varga is inherit in this piece, with in centering on traditional Hungarian dance. I’d be naïve to describe it as I will, but it felt like the most wonderful combination of tap dance, the Stomp style of dance, and river dance, an exotic folk dance mixed with contemporary, in that it had a very spiritual, almost tribal feel to it while being incredibly percussive. Some movements reminded me of the style and disciple of the Cossacks. Its mesmerising footwork timed beautiful to the percussive soundtrack, with a call and response feel between the two performers.
Whip bearing, spur wearing, like brilliant bright cowboys Trefeli and Varga burst into the basketball hall at the Carlton Baths, colourfully clad in costumes by Kata Toth, complete with a full-face mask each by Cristophe Kiss. Themed around oranges and browns and blues, and wild prints of their shirts and props, the show feels energetic, colourful and bold. The masks are fully floral pieces with great swathes of material wrapped around their faces, and it’s a wonder they can see and breathe through these delightful pieces. It adds another element of mystery and intrigue to the show and adds to the sense of transformation through costume.
The ritualistic movement centres around the movement of objects around the space, interacting with their props and the space well and almost constantly moving, pacing, dancing. The props they brought on with them turn out to be great coats of shredded materials and head pieces, which give a deeply animalistic feel to the show, and an otherworldliness, or certainly an outside of the Australian mindset kind of feel. Trefeli and Varga transform into creatures with almost a bird like grace while dancing, putting on the coats and head pieces as part of their movements, before stripping it all off and breaking out into deeply moving, emotional Hungarian song. The pace moves to more like a battle dance, and the performers present themselves to the audience, making eye contact and proudly bearing their song to us.
As the chairs are set up in a rectangle, the performers are constantly moving through this space and around it. The basketball hall felt like an odd venue at first but actually suited the piece really well- the hardwood floors best worked with the percussive stomping and footwork, and the space allowed the sounds to echo and ring out through the room, creating an incredible energy. The lighting was natural and sunlit from the outdoors with no additional lighting required, with the late afternoon sun streaming in the centre’s long windows.
The soundtrack is full of alternating beats and sounds that creates a pace and rhythm to the show, and the movements are coordinated in sync with this. The energy this show creates is unbelievable, with the audience on the edge of their chairs drinking in all of the wonder and tenacity of the performance. The show truly shows us the kinship between the language of contemporary dance and the exoticism of folk dances.
For three evenings only, delight in the exotic Creature at the Carlton Baths on Rathdowne Street until 19 March. Tickets at http://dancemassive.com.au/program/creature/