Saturday, October 2, 2010

Paper Man and The 499th Day

Dancer Anna Simm in The 499th Day
 I don’t think of choreographer Rochelle Carmichael as a fringe artist. She has been diligently making dances for close to two decades, but often under the radar. Perhaps this is because the style of her work sits outside of the fashionable Melbourne post modern/ highly conceptual/self-referential style. In recent years, she has been presenting off the beaten path at Theatreworks. The double bill she offered for Melbourne Fringe contained two wildly different pieces. They didn’t sit that smoothly next to each other, but both had promising elements with considered structures.
Dancer Kelly Way in Paper Man
Paper Man was a surreal, character driven piece - a three hander for a man (Taurus Ashley) in a big paper suit, a wide-eyed, youthful female (Kelly Way) and a cluster of red helium balloons attached to a circle of white tulle. It was whimsical, with a touch of a European circus or puppetry tradition (in no small part due to the music by Yann Tiersen from the Amelie soundtrack.) Using simple props like a line of stools, a folding screen and scattered books and clothes, it was full of narrative suggestions and strands of strong theatrical ideas. Elements like Paper Man methodically tearing his puffy white paper suit off of himself and the balloons allowing the meshy fabric to dance and float freely were visuals that could continue to develop.  
The second piece, The 499th Day, was a substantial, abstract duet that never stopped moving for 25 minutes, all to the familiar sounds of Phillip Glass. Wearing removable wings and with a single long peacock feather painted on each of their simple black costumes, the two dancers - Way and Anna Simm - competently delivered the rolling and spiralling motifs of the piece. As is often  its style, Carmichael’s vocabulary consisted of curvaceous, powerful full-bodied movements. There were also many quieter, thoughtful moments with the women in their own separate spaces and projecting inward. Way and Simm were technically proficient - it was not an easy piece and they stayed on top of the demands of the material. But for the work to really take off (pardon the pun), it needed more attack from the dancers - a deeper sense of when to draw out a line, when to suspend and when to retract. If they could find that richer texture along with deeper personal relationships to the movement, the work would become greater than the execution of  thoughtful steps.

Carmichael's company is called Liquid Skin Peninsula Performing Arts Company and is based on the Mornington Peninsula. 

Paper Man and The 499th Day
by Liquid Skin Peninsula Performing Arts Company
Melbourne Fringe Festival
23 September - 02 October 2010

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