Dance House’s Dance Territories, BORDERLINES is a meditative, complex double bill which asks an audience to engage with and confront their own perspectives, ideas and involvement with colonisation and globalisation.
Sarah-Jane Norman’s work, comprising of performances and installations The River’s Children, Take This, For It Is My Body and Heirloom, contrasts the gentle, meditative mood of their pieces with the powerful statements and questions raised by the images created. Their work asks a modern Australian audience to confront their own implication in the atrocities performed towards Indigenous Australians, highlighting ideas of erasure, respect, tradition and ritual.
A proud Indigenous Australian, Norman is situated in the centre of The River’s Children, a durational piece which sees them washing white laundry in water drawn from the Murray ー a river of great spiritual and cultural significance to many Aboriginal clans. Watery projections give the space a soft light, and a restful soundscape of Kookaburra and river sounds created by Ivan Crozier and Kiesia Carmine enfold the audience within a gentle twilight dream space. Flashing projected against the walls are the dates and locations of every documented massacre of Aboriginal people in Australia’s colonial history. As the white clothing and linen contributed by audience members are hung up to dry, they intercept these projections causing the writing to become tangled with and projected onto them, thus implicating the modern audience in these atrocities. The unapologetic, non-performative movements of Norman in the piece, as the water from the washing causes their garments to become more and more revealing, speaks to the continual struggle of Indigenous Australians in the face of an Australia still defined by colonisation.
Take This, For It Is My Body is promoted as presenting its audience with a deliberately provocative choice. For the seven minutes of the performance installation, audience members are asked to sift through their own ideas of what constitutes respectful action given the information provided and the context of the work. Layering ideas of colonial sublimation, Christian ritual, and personal sacrifice, the piece provides no easy answers, and choices of both action and inaction require complex analysis of symbols and belief systems. The presence of the installation Heirloom, a china cabinet filled with Colonial-era patterned china detailed with the artist’s own blood, heightens the weight of this experience.
The Shout, choreographed by Nacera Belaza and performed with her sister Dalila Belaza, centres the interpretation of the body in space. It asks a great deal from an audience, requiring them to engage with the almost unrelenting repeated gestural movement for the forty five minute performance, without offering connection or attending to audience engagement in a generous way. An audience of this piece has therefore to attune themselves to the subtlety of the changes in lighting and movement, the layering of sound, and rest comfortably within the unyielding rhythmic pattern.
Belaza and her sister perform on a blank stage, natural bodies in loose fitting clothing. Their repetitious movements are attended by a soundtrack designed by Christophe Renaud that layers different voices and music styles shifting gently and subtlety in prominence and volume. This sound fills and controls the space, shepherding the audience through different understandings and readings of the two performers. Questions of the significance and compulsion of the movement are attended to in different ways and with different resonances as an audience is asked by the soundtrack to interpret the two performers of Algerian descent through the lenses of different cultures, genres and definitions of dance and movement. Through this process, their movement is rendered timeless, essential and communicates a deep unwavering momentum.
Borderlines’s sequencing of these two pieces makes for a difficult audience experience in regards to the pieces’ forms as well as their engagement with the complexity of colonisation and globalisation. The double bill’s power lies in the way it holds an audience within an introspective pool of stillness and motion, requiring them again and again to re-evaluate and reinterpret the images they are presented with.