Five minutes late to the world premiere of Lucy Guerin’s Make Your Own World and I had to wait to be admitted into the Magic Theatre of the North Melbourne Town Hall.
Together with a handful of latecomers, we waited by the door. Our timing marked us a group. Some of us bristled at being painted tardy: “Locked out!? How rude!” Me, I believe it added to my excitement: what awaited me behind the door? How quickly would my eyes adjust to the transition from foyer’s glare to theatre’s embrace? But above all: what was I missing? We’d come from the 6.45pm session of Paul White and Narelle Benjamin’s Cella at the Meat Market located around the hind leg corners of North Melbourne. We’d not been at Cella together, and yet, now, in our lateness, we had. We’d raced from one venue to the next, and owing to the first performance finishing later than scheduled and the second starting on time, we were a group. How fitting, given that Make Your Own World is “inspired by groups, communities and societies in flux …. through timing and spatial formations.”
ENTRANCE NOT FOR EVERYBODY
I do not know what I missed as I felt my way in the dark. (I do know that I stepped on a few toes of the people sitting in the back row as I clambered to the furthest seat in the theatre. And I know that in arriving late to the larger, seated group, I was on the outer once more. In flux, indeed, this belonging.) Yes, dropping away the realities and constraints of physical time and space, I do not know what I missed, but I was free, after all, to make up the beginning to my Own World. Invitation accepted and impulse taken, I was time-muddled within the pages of Hermann Hesse’s novel Der Steppenwolf in Dance Massive 2019.
Recently landed: Cutting Loose, Gracia's written response to the Keir Choreographic Award semi-finals at Dancehouse, for Fjord Review
At the Kier Choreographic Award semi-finals my shoes cut loose. At the Kier Choreographic Awards semi-finals, independent of me, that is, my shoes cut loose. Lobbed by an enthusiastic audience member, relishing their liberty, my left shoe, it flew across the dance floor, airborne and free. It landed with a thud. The right shoe, it was a log that tripped another audience member mid-dance, before it transformed from obstacle into a fish flipping on land. My shoes, free of me, had the night of their lives, I expect. And when it came time to collect my shoes from the stage, I thought, yes, I am at the Keir Awards at Dancehouse. (In truth, I also thought, why did I wear my new shoes tonight? I’d spent the day treating them like a newborn kitten.) Spread over two nights, four different works presented on each, the brilliance of the unexpected hit me in the heart. Moo like a cow on one, jangle your keys on two, applaud on three, shake it all about. This hokey pokey was the creation of Lee Wilson and Mirabelle Wouters (Branch Nebula) and the invitation to explore the uncharted was lapped up by my chattels a little more than it was by me.
Branch Nebula’s Stop-Go toyed with their definition of performance being “in essence, just one thing after another,” and the audience, furnished with different sets of printed prompts (which had been left on each seat) when asked at timed intervals (at 01.45 to 02.00 “Pass all shoes to the right” / ”applaud for 15 seconds”) were indeed “foregrounded throughout the performance.”
In Edward Hopper’s painting, Night Windows (1928), a woman in her illuminated apartment goes about her private affairs unaware of my gaze. A voyeuristic composition, Hopper has made me a ‘peeping tom’ whether I wish to be or not — to view the work is to peep. Is she, too, postponing the tasks of her tomorrow? The emphasis here is not upon Tennessee Williams’ “kindness of strangers,” but rather their loneliness, a shared loneliness, one shadowed by intimacy. In a pink slip, she is bent over, spot lit against the black of night as I, the viewer, lean nonchalantly against a lamppost. And in Melanie Lane’s new choreographic work, Nightdance, she is Lilian Steiner in flesh-coloured pants rendered golden goddess by lamplight. One thing is certain: night is made of shadows and in said shadows one can lurk. The cover of darkness, the ability to conceal, magic made not by sleight of hand but by the shift change between the sun and the moon. You can watch and not be seen.
From folklore’s werewolves to the Porto Rican coarse-haired Chupacabra (“goat sucker”), come the full moon, come the descent of night, all creatures come out to play and give rise to night terrors and thrills. Ghouls and golems not detectable during the day are made manifest by night. From the margins of medieval manuscripts come men with dogs’ heads, the Cynocephali, to tap at your windowpane. As Steiner, Gregory Lorenzutti, and Lane prowl on all fours across the darkened stage, such are my thoughts. In dog pose, their collective gait is stiff (humans do not have the supple spine of canines, no matter how fit) and otherworldly. Beguiling too. Nightdance reveals this awkward-easy transition into another world distinct from day to be liberating and emboldening. Come the night, you can reinvent yourself. You can release your alter ego. You can strut. You can prowl. You can shimmy. You can seek to entrance. You can even become your own kind of werewolf. Or muscled were-mouse, as Lorenzutti, shows. You can watch and be seen.