Small Details is a testament to Sandra Parker’s work and practice in minimal movement and gestural action. Theatre People were lucky enough to be invited to the dress rehearsal of this slick, in sync show this week, and examine the intricately refined choreography.
The show centres around a machinery, industrial and mechanical feel, with the set dressed with a range of different kinetic sculptures designed by Rhian Hinkley, and the movements feeling inspired by scientists in a lab, doctors or very specific, refined, process based systems. The show literally examines the small details of every day life and everyday movement, from folding, pinching, pulling, pushing, opening and closing, with specific movements that seemed to be to be looking at a test tube, examining cables, unscrewing bottles and so on. It’s percussive and driven by the soundtrack, in time to the changing sounds and rhythms.
This show is completely in sync, with three strong performers not missing a beat as they performed the mechanical, small movements over and over again. The initial phase of the dance is repeated five to six times, which gives you time to examine the space, stage, each performer in detail, and notice the machinery on stage with them: but this performance would have been just as engaging if it was half the time and cut some of the repetition. This is part of Parker’s vision for the piece, with the work’s duration testing the performers’ and the audience’s ability to meeting the demands of the choreographic system: of which the performers nail, but this audience member certainly struggled with. Maybe it is just the hot spell of weather that has hit Melbourne, and the very old, very beautiful, but very stuffy Dancehouse spaces, but once you examined each element of the performance it was very easy to let your mind wander within the space.
The performers Arabella Frahn-Starkie, Melissa Jones and Kasey Lack incredibly poised and disciplined, and I would have loved to know what they were thinking to remember each precise combination of movements, and how they stayed so focused and driven through the energetic piece. The space is well used and explored, with the performers moving across the space in a diagonal way to have completely covered the space by the end of the performance. Parker’s choreography is definitely demanding but very well thought out and really well considers the performance space, and being part of a complete rhythmic machine and system.
At the crux of the piece, the machine begins to spin out a little bit, with each performer breaking from complete unison to be moving in the opposite direction, where Parker envisioned precision breaks. The performers show how cogs in the machine can sometimes come loose, and how things are brought back into conformity, with the show moving to examine vulnerabilities, limitations and the potentiation of the body in a technological world. The soundtrack starts to include loud banging and clanging which the performers begin to react to, as the vulnerabilities and small pieces of self outside of conformity begin to sneak in.
Lighting by Jenny Hector was bright, white and unchanging, with the space lit for the entire performance, giving it a very blank canvas, sterile feel. The soundtrack by J. David Franzke began with a metronome or slow ticking clock and included water dripping, and the sounds of machinery accompanied by an array of percussion. Costumes were uniform, and appeared comfortable, but business like, in plain grey singlets and dark pants.
A challenging but definitely engaging performance, Small Details is on until Friday 17 March at Dancehouse in Carlton North. Tickets at: http://dancemassive.com.au/program/small-details/