It’s hard to say what was most surprising — being swept outside to an outdoor theatre on a brisk 12 degree winter’s night, or watching a lithe dancer journey through a metaphorical birth canal, emerging semi-naked as a newborn, then convulsing while wearing a baby face mask with the most distraught expression one could image.
Chunky Move’s It Cannot Be Stopped is a program that demands engagement, participation and interpretation. It is a moveable feast of dance of three short performances, each created by a different choreographer and performed in different locations in and around the Chunky Move Studios at Southbank.
The production is one of the dance company’s “Next Move” commissions which supports up-and-coming choreographers. The first begins with a sense of regal power as Melbourne choreographer and dancer Benjamin Hancock performs his solo work Princess in which he embodies the idea of royalty.
Hancock is dressed as a deity with long blonde plaits and a black dress adorned with long colourful ribbons that fly behind him as he moves about the small circular stage under a powerful spotlight mastered by lighting designer Bosco Shaw.
He begins slowly, exploring poses that evoke a sense of ‘power over the people’, with outstretched arms and long extensions of his legs, while avoiding eye contact with the audience at all times. Hancock builds momentum, working up to a frenzy of twists and turns before adopting a steady sense of command again. He creates a well-considered narrative flow with his precise technical skills.
The audience is then shuffled into the dark Melbourne night, to a moody-lit tunnel with seating on either side. With the rustling wind and bright Melbourne skyline in the distance, it is a fitting setting for choreographer and dancer Paea Leach’s impressively mature lines of birds. Three dancers Gregory Lorenzutti, Michaela Pegum and Leach, begin in the dark distance, migrating like birds in a flow of constant movement through the tunnel. It’s set to the intuitive piano tones of musicians Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey while the dancers’ scratching of their sneakers on the concrete adds to the soundscape.
The choreography flows with shifting weight and changes of direction as the dancers counter-balance each other. They work harmoniously coming to a standstill and creating twitching bird-like moves with their arms, hands and heads. The migration continues as they head into seemingly dangerous territories, appearing to face strong winds before disappearing into the night.
And then the audience were swept back inside, and along comes Atlanta Eke. Diminutive in size but exploding in confidence she begins her show Fountain with a talk to the audience. Rather than a warm welcome, she says that we are quiet compared to smaller audiences. She explains the performance is part of a 220 minute series, explodes into a wicked laugh, then lies face down in blobs of red paint and snakes her body backwards emulating a baby’s journey through the birth canal.
As she emerges into life she mimics a traumatised baby. Her oversized prosthetic head convulses as she lets out evil cackling more and howls. Eke’s props include glass balls, clay lumps and vessels of water. It’s set to a guitar performance by Daniel Jenatsch and appears to be symbolic of birth and the ageing process.
Eke’s artistic approach is unique for its ideological undercurrent where she appears unconcerned as to whether we like her or not, is happy to make us uncomfortable, shocked, empathetic and most of all, intrigued.
The program was coordinated by Chunky Move artistic director Anouk van Dijk and is a well-curated event with its idea of planting seeds for new movement styles, themes and presentation.