Mischa Baka: Dance
Showing posts with label Dance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dance. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

City baths squash court dance

September 18, 2018 1
City baths squash court dance
Ben Woodman, Ben Hurley, Leah Landau City Baths Melbourne 2018

I was Invited to observe a work in progress by Leah Landau with dancers Thomas Woodman and Ben Hurley. With camera.

I walked into a squash court with a very brief introduction and no conversation about what’s about to happen, or even, why I am there. Three dancers including Leah shared some brief ideas about how to proceed with their work and then began to move about the space taking their choreographic cues from laptops placed on the floor.

I enjoyed the ease of which I was granted to walk into this project and observe. A small smile shared with Ben Hurly was permission granted to start filming.

I sometimes lament how artists can speak too much before doing anything, perhaps from fear that any action will be misunderstood or cause offense and provoke judgment. People generally spend a lot of time deflecting judgment before anything worth judging has even happened. So, it was a pleasure just to watch a work unfold before my eyes, feeling the history of Leah’s process in the work but not necessarily understanding what brought the dancers to this point.

I know that in my own work there can be a tendency to over explain, facilitate and inform cast and crew, for fear that they will feel lost or judge what’s going on.

This moment with Leah reminded me of films where the audience is thrown into a ritual without understanding the rules. A type of logic is discernible, but it appears completely abstract to the un initiated. Part of the pleasure is figuring it out.

Of course, once the intentions and parameters of the ritual to become known, that judgment so feared, soon follows, is this ritual of value? Does it serve and nourish all the participants? Or is it just indulging the leader. Are the participants just serving the leaders wishes?

When after the run through Leah spoke of feeling “ excited,” It felt like it was a personal experience she was sharing with a cast unsure of their own feelings. But often this is the case with a leader, and sometimes it’s enough for an actor or dancer to excite their director without knowing exactly how they did it. Or perhaps, they are spurred on by the director’s excitement because it does present as a mystery to be uncovered. Surely a splendid moment will arise when you have the same insight as the director, the same excited feeling. Maybe that’s when they become a real leader, they have shown you a path, and you have arrived.

So what is Leah’s work about. In a brief conversation while she got on her bike and had to rush away, still maintaining a sense of mystery, she said, it’s about, “ Trying to recreate moments from the past,” Hence the dancers watching the screens trying to recreate the choreography in the moment.

People responding to screens is such a relatable image on the stage, it’s immediately speaking to how we are all trapped by the screens that dominate our lives and inform our movements, language and thoughts. I wonder if this understanding will add to the work or steer peoples understanding, does it matter.

I love Leah’s dance work, her movements and actions always strike me as vital, as if performed in order to survive.
In this enclosed space of a squash court and further trapping the dancers in my gaze looking down on them, the choreography felt like a survival instinct, reaching for something beyond the space, the vision on the laptops perhaps, outside of time, they were grasping for a bit of freedom recreated within this captivity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

ECHO. Healing stillness, what lies beneath

September 05, 2018 2
ECHO. Healing stillness, what lies beneath

Echo is a new dance theatre work by Lola Howard, performed at Trades Hall in Carlton as part of LaMama Theatre.

Lola is a captivating presence on stage, striking a comfortable tone between earnest insight and unflinching frankness.
She tells stories and shares experiences with a serene and calm demeanour, expressing herself with clear words that never fumble or repeat. Its the type of stage presence that any public speaker would aspire to.
Her manner is comfortable and easy, and, as the stories begin, she shares a phrase that caught her attention in the book Big Magic, ' The safe path isn't safe.' This is one of the first instances in which Lola alludes to something darker or troubled lurking behind a sense of ease. Perhaps this ease comes at a cost?   
Peeking behind a serene, easy stillness becomes a recurring theme for each story. Growing up, Lola was expected to be quiet around her mother. She was led to believe that this quietness would help her mother recover from an illness. She was never to play music too loud and was to keep conversation to a minimum. This quietness is described as becoming part of her identity, causing an inward gaze that seeks answers to life’s challenges inside the self. With her mother’s tragic death Lola as a child struggles to sleep, and again, the only thing that helps her sleep is a bedtime story that asks her to find the edges of her mind and master aspects of self-discipline.
Each new story and choreographic phrase further characterises Lola’s sense for mediating her body and mind with the world around her.  But something is lurking underneath and it is literally described as a beast that lives inside of her body. Thus, Lola’s serene disposition, direct address to the audience and blue innocent eyes increasingly seem to be hiding a powerful mystery underneath.
This mystery is crafted well. It deepens with every clue, metaphor and anecdote lapped up by an eager audience wanting to understand more. Lola’s direct address to the audience starts to feel protective by forever holding our gaze with her clear, steady blue eyes. We can’t look away, she has us, we can only look deeper. In a moment when she turns her back I was struck by how unusual it was to look at her from this vantage point. Her direct command is rarely relinquished.  Lola herself speaks about being captivated by her own eyes in the mirror as a child, questioning her sense of self; was she simply a ghost controlling the vision of a girl? Using the classical stories of Narcissus and Echo, Lola continues to tease out the implications of a self-regarding gaze and finding stillness.

Lola shows us the power and intrigue that stillness can offer to a sense of self and way of being in the world. She is commanding with her pure and gentle expression. She also hints at the darkness that this serene power can perhaps repress, manifest or simply mask. She shows us that an ability to gaze at one’s self openly can at once bring us out into the world with clarity and power, while paradoxically hold us in a dark echo chamber of our own making.    
Echo, is a commanding work, I was eager for another chapter or two in order to go deeper and discover what lurks behind Lolo’s clear and present gaze.