Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Anti-Gravity - Chunky Move

Below is my Herald Sun review of Anti-Gravity, published 21 March

At a basic level, Anti-Gravity is about clouds, but the performance hints at multiple mythological and spiritual levels. There’s a cast of six diverse dancers, yet Anti-Gravity emerges more as an interaction of bodies with objects and environments than a dance production. 
Anti-Gravity, Photo by Pippa Samaya

It has the distinct touch of a visual artist - To Tzu Nyen. He closely collaborates with Chunky Move’s artistic director,  Anouk van Dijk, to create an abstracted experience offering gradually evolving images and archetypes. The slowly unfolding activity of the humans with the materiality is a very gradual burn. To get the most out of it, audiences need to submit to the pace, not overthink it and allow it to just wash over them.  
Anti-Gravity, Photo by Pippa Samaya

On the cavernous black stage, in sharp squares of light (by Paul Jackson), individuals relentlessly pursue a single activity. Luigi Vescio rolls and caresses rocks around an astroturfed platform. James Batchelor stares into a shallow rectangular pool of water. Niharika Senapati is immersed with a laptop displaying skyscapes. Bursts from high powered smoke machines, subtle changes in light, the blowing of fans all slightly alter the environment, but the mood sustains.

Jethro Woodward’s spectacular sound score of sub-woofer drones layered with swelling and residing instrumentations prescribes the journey just as much as any other design contribution. 

It takes about half way through the 70 minute piece (just when all the barely moving feels stretched too long) for the individual, internalised vignettes to build into a kind of wild euphoria. Then things get interesting.
Anti-Gravity, Photo by Pippa Samaya

In that frenzy - when the dancers, in their various shapes and sizes, create heaving circles or rousing folkloric lines - are nuggets of Van Dijk’s exciting Countertechnique dance style. The kinetic thrill of the hurling bodies, often in boisterous and surprising duets, brings a much needed visceral punch, lifting Anti-Gravity out of the distant cerebral and into the startling presence before it simmers down again into more solipsistic activity. 

Anti-Gravity will divide audiences. It’s an immersive experience, rigorously developed, but those looking for the physicality of contemporary dance may miss the immediacy and kinetic excitement of more sustained choreography.

*** Stars

Merlin Theatre, Malthouse Theatre
17-26 March 

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