Review by Cicely Binford
Raewyn Hill and the Co3 dancers have premiered a new choreographic work for MoveMe Festival 2016 that showcases Hill’s aesthetic vision and delves into her artistic and creative motivations. the cry explores the idea of following the inner monologue of a single dancer through several dancers, and how the different emotional threads are woven together in a dancer’s existence. Composer Eden Mulholland joins six Co3 dancers on stage for live accompaniment on guitar and piano for the production in the Heath Ledger Theatre.
The stage is set with two rows of seatless chairs flanking either side of the space. At the rear of the set stands several large whit corrugated metal sheets. A first impression of some kind of confrontational event pervades, with five of the dancers clad in flowing pastels and one of the dancers, Andrew Searle, dressed in black along with Mulholland. The androgynous costumes designed by Hill are virtually runway ready and could likely have sat comfortably among the entries in the Perth Fashion Festival. This androgyny lends itself to the notion that within a single dancer you’ll find both male and female aspects, and the free-moving fabrics tend to neutralise the dancers’ actual gender to a small degree.
Searle seems to direct or influence the others, while Mulholland sets the tone with his music; “they are the embodiment of everything,” Hill tells us in the programme notes. Mulholland’s presence mostly downstage facing the scene is unobtrusive but wholly embedded. Searle sometimes manipulates interaction between the other dancers, but they also begin to play out their relationships of their own accord. Sometimes the dancers embodying the other aspects (Katherine Gurr, the stoic, Zachary Lopez, the broken, Russell Thorpe, the fixer, and Talitha Maslin, the emotional) work in harmony, but eventually there is some conflict; things get out of control and chairs start flying. Eventually the dancers regain composure, subduing the anger that Mitch Harvey embodies; chairs are put back into place and balance is restored.
Mulholland’s live score haunts with moody guitar and what sounds like glossolalia vocals. He moves from one side of the stage where his pedals are set up, to the other side of the stage where a piano sits. Mark Howett‘s lights flood the whole stage, but there are subtle shifts (on the rear corrugated panels for instance) that bring the dancers into sharp relief, while still keeping their faces and bodies delicately modelled. The combined effect of sound and vision gently lulls the spectator into a soft reverie.
the cry does present some difficulties for the viewer, as the narrative (if one argues in favour of its existence here) lacks specificity, and it’s sometimes difficult to discern Hill’s intent in each moment. All of the elements are in place for a beautiful piece of work, but somehow it doesn’t push quite far enough into the territory where we understand the reason why this particular story needs to be told. There must be one, of course, otherwise Hill wouldn’t be compelled to make this work. the cry‘s motives don’t immediately leap across that chasm between the stage and the audience to pull us thoroughly in, though the style and concept do make a good invitation.