Phantom Limbs and Luke George

“Private Dances II”
Nat Cursio Co

Fringe Festival, Melbourne, Australia, September 2013


In a jazz bar across the street from the Northcote Town Hall, with my friend recuperating from the wilds of fringe festival dance we had just seen in old melodies made new, what he was somewhat caught off guard by is what one must go to the fringe for, and that is the sense of freedom that comes from the expression of nimble ensembles who are in and of the world and refract it in a particular, captivating and kaleidoscopic way. The Phantom Limbs struck a chord: sweat, rigour, routine crossed with green feelings and rising ennui, there was nothing but to go forward, although it might seem a treadmill. . .

“TRUTH,” choreographed by the five dancers, assembled, integrated and absorbed the interloping parts, each individual strain repeated and redanced by another dancer; “TRUTH” grew tighter and more drawn together, culminating in a rainbow coloured vision of five in unison, breaking into a synchronised run. The running synthesis of all that had gone before, each strain whether truthful or not validated at that point by the veracity of each other. Dressed in world-map coloured tunics, it was a stream of consciousness come alive, with a tidal build . . . and then like a dream, it was over. The dancers walked from the floor, breathless, leaving no room for applause, they returned to their originating posts and swapped the rainbow for grey, ready for their next statement.

“Fantasy Solo for Five,” theatrical and irreverent, by Melbourne choreographer Luke George, made “Truth” seem sober by comparison, but that is at the margins. So too is the note that “TRUTH” was colourful, and “Fantasy” grey; make of that what you will. But “Fantasy” went there, wandering into the forest of the subconscious, expressively (dancers yowling) and perhaps by the seduction of momentum, narrowly avoided slamming into some walls, swerving at the last minute, to float down some other road, often by way of the loose, impromptu seasoning of the choreography, a little Cunningham echo. The end was a cabaret; Earth Wind and Fire’s Fantasy making mousse from the wild little pageant going before. Present in Luke George’s choreography, it seems to me, is a love of reference, and turning it on its side to show us a new aspect. In one part, the dancers, both girls and boys, by turns marked the male partner’s role in a classical pas de deux—ballet walks, lift the imaginary girl, present, elegantly retreat—showing a different side of themselves, a classical organisation of the body, and then throwing it away for something else in the choppy evolution of the dance.

In terms of expression of the intimate, a few months ago I found myself milling in the darkened hall with the wide eyed crowd in, ostensibly, the Northcote Town Hall. Blue lights streamed up to the ceiling, a carpet of real lawn was underfoot, and pitched tents glowed in the middleground. Clearly, we were not in Kansas anymore. Nat Cursio’s “Private Dances II” (the second incarnation of, the first was in 2010 at the Next Wave Festival) is delightfully surreal, plays with limits as is her bent, limits such as space, conventions of performance, and in this case, intimacy; there is the sense that this world was created, with such care for the details, to reduce everything to one by throwing all the pieces up in the air at once. It rather reminded me of a snowglobe of dance.

Within the tents, perhaps owing to the closeness, the dances affected me rationally, sensibly, with details visible, the ability to absorb more than usual at a dance performance where so much blows by, as though being so engaged made one alert and awake, only to return to the moody night picnic on the outside to reverse the flow.

Yet several performances left their steely imprint. We walked into the still chamber, having been instructed to stand anywhere, and leave whenever you feel like it. Easier said than done, for the floor was covered in skittles, some trodden on, a part squished confectionary carpet. We lined the walls, anticipating some spectacle. The lovely, hypnotic, measured “Prelude in Blue Jumper” began. The dancer and creator, Fiona Bryant, had the air of a Jane Campion heroine, with neurotic feints at movement, as though antagonising the space, going against the natural laws of a piano in a room: she draped over the piano stool, sat atop the piano, the soft bend of her neck revealing the dancer in her, and then a pair of scissors lifted as though in a dark and lucid dream. . .skittles!

And a piece that fills me with warmth at the faintest memory of it: “Private Parking.” Encapsulating the road trip, summer love, like a polaroid, memory or dream, it was viewed in part from the driver’s mirror. Meaning it was itself performed in the back of the car; intricately mapped on and over the seats, suspension in a station wagon boot. Prior to taking our place in the front seats, the dancers, Tyler Hawkins and Elise Drinkwater, asked us to choose a number, one two or three, the significance of which I’m not sure of—not sure whether it was revealed or not, or never meant to be, I would guess at perhaps which song they performed to, or even which version of the dance. Like a dream, or a memory, some things are hazy.

‘Have you seen the hip hop dancer?’ one of the guides (who were dancers, some I recognised) said magically appearing at our side. We followed along to a chamber.

In the vault, the limbs and smile of Efren Pamilacan bounced, so it seemed, from corner to corner, like a squash ball.

‘Just do whatever with your arms,’ Efren eversmiling, showing us a couple of steps and we all jumbled ourselves up for a minute or two and left grinning.

Like a party, it was clear that each guest’s experience of the evening would be unique, and that not all tent-dances, nor the several dance films, would be seen over the course of the evening. The guides were trustworthy stalwarts of this dance safari (we visited a variety of continents and styles both classical and contemporary) waiters glided amongst the milling guests offering eye popping treats on trays, to delight the senses. A little bar to the side with modish taxidermy served a pink signature cocktail. Cursio, the designer of this curious world of dance, quietly ushered, wearing anonymous black, an anti-impresario.


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