Sydney Dance Company's CounterMove

Recently landed: Prickly by Nature, Gracia's written response to Sydney Dance Company's double bill, CounterMove, for Fjord Review

Alexander Ekman’s Cacti, created for Nederlands Dans Theater in 2010, is a playful sendup of contemporary dance as Stella Gibbons’ 1932 novel, Cold Comfort Farm, is a delicious flapdoodle cliché.

Through Cacti, Ekman is making a sharpened comment on the role of the critic and the overblown language criticism employs. Using humour, clever observation, and refinement, the work is as pointed in its execution as the very cacti that populate the stage, and there in lies the rub: as I attempt to wrangle comment on this piece, performed as part of Sydney Dance Company’s double bill, CounterMove, I cannot do so without feeling like Flora Poste. Where Gibbons gave us dawns that do not merely rise, but creep “over the Downs like a sinister white animal, followed by the snarling cries of a wind eating its way between the black boughs of the thorns,” it is tempting to follow suit.

The novelist Robert Macfarlane, as a way of staying honest, runs his prose through the Cold Comfort Test: “would Gibbons have mocked this paragraph?” So, too, am I, as I re-weigh the already weighed and wonder: am I sounding like Ekman’s imaginary, yet drawn from life, “artsy-fartsy blah blah blah” critic in Cacti? Once you open yourself up to the joys of parody, hackneyed phrases trip off the tongue. And much like the voiceover throughout Cacti, we are all jargon-littering pomposities, guilty of over-writing.

Sydney Dance Company's Alexander Ekman's Cacti (Image credit: Peter Greig)