The second piece in Tramway’s HOT: New Dance and Performance From Australia season is a fragmented conundrum in three parts, choreographed by Stephanie Lake. A man and a woman dance solos, then together, and the routines blur and merge.The third “character” in the routine is Robin Fox’s jarring soundscape, which is a militant kind of techno, fading into acoustic guitar, then crackles, hisses, shrill frequencies and low drones.
Alisdair Mcindoe, clad in baggy neutral colours, twitches, spasms and crashes to the floor.
At times he seems almost boneless, his hands fluttering of their own free will, unconnected to any brain signals. Occasionally though, a sharp hip-hop movement or balletic glide and twirl will emerge like a mutation beyond his control. He is never still, always a restless soul, shifting and exploratory.
Sara Black’s glassy-eyed stare belies a more fluid movement – at least initially- with graceful sweeping arm gestures. Clad in tight darker clothes, she seems even more robotic than Macindoe. However, soon she shares similar gesticulations and her expression softens.
Her movements in their repetition and imitation of the dancer before her seem like a kind of binary code, data scrolling endlessly down a screen.
The whole effect is hypnotic and disconcerting, and it is almost impossible not to shift uncomfortably or even jump in your seat as both the routine and music becomes increasingly layered and intense. It is impossible to second-guess all of the shapes, even though it is apparent they complement the individual solos. Questions of identity and structure are left hanging in the air.
For the third dance, the two, now clad in black and cream, face off at either side of the stage. The routine becomes simultaneously corporeal and machine-like – a battle of wills between robots imbued with consciousness. Macindoe catches Black and then pushes her down, but her leg sticks up in defiance like a reflex motion. The duo act like puppet masters, mirroring and animating each other, movements and whispering words becoming congruent – language only they can understand. There is a brutality here, and the sense that were you to reach into the guts of either dancer, tangled wires and circuit boards would spill out. Yet Black clings tenderly to Macindoe, as though they are the first (or last) people in a desolate planet, dependent on each other.
It could at times be perceived as a kind of bizarre mating ritual between human prototypes, or a violent struggle between sexual tension and physical dominance. Or perhaps Lake’s choreography is suggesting that the seeming incompatibilty of men and women is what sustains relationships: that the gender divide is ultimately unsolvable but worth pursuing nonetheless.
But in the main, it feels like a dystopian themed sci-fi, in the vein of Ray Bradbury novels (such as Fahrenheit 451) or the cinema of David Cronenberg (ExistenZ), where male and female desire has been commodified to the exclusion of all genuine emotional responses.
A thrilling, visceral dance, which may trouble your dream state for a while.