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Reviews/Dance/Perth Festival

Incredible art-making

10 February 2018

Perth Festival review: Attractor by Gideon Obarzanek, Lucy Guerin, Dancenorth and  Senyawa ·
State Theatre Centre, 8 February ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

A group of people sit around in a semi-circle, in the centre of a Spartan stage.  Just as the audience is becoming restless, a couple of the figures start to move, robot-like, up from their chairs.  Others join in but two people in the middle of the semi-circle stay put.  As the bodies around them expand their movements, one of the two remaining figures picks up a large instrument and out of the silence comes a crashing metallic chord.  Here we go…

Attractor is a unique beast – a joint creation from two of Australia’s luminaries of contemporary dance, Gideon Obarzanek and Lucy Guerin.  Obarzanek is best known for his founding of Chunky Move, the Melbourne-based contemporary dance outfit in part responsible for the popularization of the genre in Australia.  Guerin is one of the country’s leading choreographers whose company Lucy Guerin Inc is renowned for its innovative, challenging works.  Both are credited as choreographers for Attractor while Obarzanek alone designed the work.  It shows – while the frenetic blur of movement may be familiar to anyone who has seen works by either Obarzanek or Guerin, the sinister underlying tone is distinctly Chunky Move-ish.

The collaboration does not stop there.  All the dancers, save the excellent Harrison Hall from Lucy Guerin Inc, are from Queensland’s esteemed Dancenorth.  But the centrepiece of this extraordinary collaboration is provided by Senyawa, a two-piece duo from Indonesia.  Incorporating elements of doom metal, folk and acapella, Senyawa’s music is a sonic trip.  The soundtrack of Attractor becomes the focal point of the performance – when someone is screeching into a microphone, accompanied by reverberating chords of pure noise, it’s hard to focus on anything else.

To be honest, I had no idea what instrument guitarist Wukir Suryadi was playing.  Was it a Chapman stick?  Was it some kind of guitar indigenous to Indonesia?  I had to look it up.  Turns out, Suryadi created the instrument himself – it’s a bambuwukir (namecheck!), an amplified zither made out of bamboo.  It’s loud, really loud.  And whether Suryadi is coaxing doom-like horrors out of it, or something more melodic, it’s incredible to behold.  That is, you think it’s incredible to behold until you shift your gaze to Suryadi’s partner in crime…Rully Shabara.  Shabara vocalizes (one cannot call it singing) as though he is possessed by the same spirits that created Suryadi’s instrument.  He wails, he ululates, he growls and groans and shrieks.

Surrounded by this sonic furore, the dancers flail and pop, sometimes in unison, sometimes in a mess of discrete movement.  There is no particular narrative here – we’re being taken on a trip, a trance and there is nothing to interpret, we are here to observe.  The choreography is as intense as the music – contorted exertions that ripple with energy.  Some of the most effective phrases are those performed in unison, the dancers slicing through space, jerking and bustling with near-perfect cohesion.  A solo from Samantha Hines is absolutely gob-smacking.  Her arms and hands shuddering, her back arched, head thrown back – all while Shabara howls gutturally into the microphone.  Intense doesn’t begin to describe it.

This is incredible art-making.  Go see it.

‘Attractor’ runs until February 10th.

Photo: Gus Kemp

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Author —
Varnya Bromilow

Varnya Bromilow is a happy dilettante who has worked as a journalist, advocate, oral historian, teacher and train driver. She spent 15 years with the ABC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The West Australian and enjoys writing fiction. She loves guinea pigs and the thrill of a good slide.

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