Dispersion  review by Lyn Zelen

Immersive human movement with a message of hope.

The National Institute of Circus Arts, 2019 Second Ensemble connects with all. Extraordinary aerial and acrobatic artists excite and defy gravity. The refreshing progressive physical theatre company communicates human evolution in an ever-changing array of body memory.

Co-Directors Zebastian Hunter and Meredith Kitchen’s contemporary work applauds ‘the others’ in society inspired by global modernity. Their students go beyond apparent physical boundaries to master individual apparatus and build complex dynamic relationships in the large ensemble of fourteen.

Jenny Game-Lopata’s original music compositions, influenced by world music sounds, narrate humankind’s Dispersion. Her saxophone mimics the highs and lows of the intricate and brilliant choreography. Guitarist Chris Lewis strums the human struggles in rapid rock fire or soothes with gentle forgiving harmonies. Kathleen Halloran on drum is their permanent beat driving them on.

A woman crawls onto Earth’s fertile ground with ropes tied to each limb, dragging all cultures of our species behind her into a higher state of consciousness. The mess of men and women of all shapes and sizes morph into a spider’s web of fear and insecurity. Humanity is intertwined in bondage, writhing, pushing, and pulling on the ropes of Mother Nature— the woman is forced into the centre of the web.

Change is too strong, the ropes flex, as do the energetic ensemble flick flacking and tumbling in a sporadic spectacle of human behaviour above, below, and away from the ropes and their primitive ties.

Each act provokes more unsuspecting gasps from the audience than the last. The act of balancing life and relationships begins. The woman and a man adapt by balancing on a tight rope to and from each other. The background performers, precariously balance on a slack rope, questioning gravity, balance in unison to finally swing together.

As humanity climbs the ladder of evolution, more and more clan’s faction, split into cultures and collide. Metal bars signifying mountains or buildings are suspended from the ceiling. Some members of the ensemble hall their forms up effortlessly and flip up and over the steel barriers like schoolyard kids on monkey bars. Others are bolstered up to the bars and some fall prey to life’s imagined and pre-conceived ideas and pulled by their ankles and legs back down to constraints on earth.

Whilst others choose to leap up of their own free will onto the bars, or are boosted up by others in their clan. They climb the mountains of obstacles above them, hang upside down, or flip around and around and keep smiling.

Dispersion mixes it up, and simmers down. You may find it hard to keep up with the multitude of activity when the clans display their newfound skills—NICA obviously encourages their students to experiment with all apparatus. Hoops, balls, and hats are thrown high, in the same instant the performers tumble or somersault before catching the apparatus.

The feat of human ingenuity and drive propels individuals to explore more avenues.

Hunter and Kitchen employ human collaborative efforts to build and construct—the ensemble becomes human towers, a trapeze and more.

Men and women meet new challenges head on. They climb suspended ropes with bare hands and feet to the ceiling. They twist the ropes around their hips or a leg, hang sideways from one limb then suddenly fall, unrolling down the rope, their faces stopping centimetres from the floor. This is followed by gasps then applause from the audience.

There’s no room for error in their immaculate performance, unlike the reality of life and the emotions it evokes. The narrative weaves a new web of destruction; the ensemble (now clearly two opposing clans) perform tricks with flags, an innuendo of war. The rock music grinds, the clans and human race divides.

All communities have their ups and downs. The coupled men and women produce children, who are represented by the smaller members of the ensemble, and then they are held by their arms and ankles by “the others” and literally skipped with like a child’s skipping rope. They learn how to climb up human body towers or are catapulted like human projectiles into somersaults and fall into the awaiting arms of their clans.

Life brings everyone together to consolidate and slow down to a manageable pace. The women nurture their children; the girls grow to flex and contorts their hyper-extensive limbs into weird and wonderful poses, whilst hanging from rings, triangles, and harnesses. The girls and boys become rebellious teenagers without fear, stand inside large hula-hoop rings like a starfish and spin around almost horizontally at times.

The Dispersion continues, embodied in life’s spirit as human performance art. Experience the ensembles human body memory, unity of human kindness and exhilarating grace.

Images: Sean Paris photography