In total darkness, three narrow spotlight beams take turns flashing their light onto a video camera and solid tripod mounted on a wheeled dolly, the bursts of light accompanied by short, high-pitched sounds. This is the intriguing beginning of the latest piece from ADT. Advanced video technology forms a major, integral part of this performance and so it was, perhaps, fitting that this equipment took centre stage at the start. The nine dancers took turns in running the cameras and their effort were projected onto three large panels at the rear, sometimes triplicated, sometimes the same image is dealt with differently on each panel, and sometimes the one image is spread as a panorama over the three screens.
These are not, however, simple projections of the action. The technology goes well beyond an enlarged image or providing a view from a different direction. Conceived and directed by Garry Stewart, with choreography by him and the dancers, this world première dance work plays with perspective in a way that would not be possible without the use of the technology, specifically video artist and engineer Thomas Pachoud's live video manipulation. At times, it is as though you are there amidst the dancers, then above them looking down, then the image has added details, generated by Pachoud.
The video blends with the dance, but never overpowers it; it adds to and enhances the performance. Two dancers enter and begin by moving close to the camera, which reveals that, sewn onto their clothing, are strips of text and the dancers position one another so that it is projected across the three screens. The text illuminates the ideas behind the performance and is a feature at various intervals throughout the work.
Composer, Huey Benjamin's electronic music is refreshingly subtle and lends itself well to the intricacy of this piece, where the movement can reduce from ensemble right down to close-ups on just the hands of the dancers, perhaps adding a generated 'cats cradle' effect around the fingers, or the strings of a puppet, linking to another dancer further away from the camera. Mark Pennington's lighting, of course, is an essential part of the performance, with the need to act both as stage lighting and, effectively, television studio lighting
Central to it all is the dance, and there is wealth of extra opportunity offered by the technology that allows the dancers to investigate possibilities beyond the normal range of techniques. The ability to explore the minutest movement brings a whole new level to choreography and Stewart and his dancers have done a wonderful job of extending their expertise into this new domain. Once again, Garry Stewart and the Australian Dance Theatre are pushing boundaries and moving into uncharted territory.
My guest, visiting from England, was completely amazed by the production, announcing that it was not at all what she had been expecting and that she had never seen anything like it before. Contemporary dance is alive and well in Adelaide. You must see this innovative and exciting production for yourself before it closes.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.
Venue: Her Majesty's Theatre, 58 Grote Street, Adelaide
Season: 8pm to Sat 3rd March 2012
Tickets: $25 to $59
Bookings: BASS 131 246, BASS outlets, or online
Photography by Chris Herzfeld – Camlight Productions