Navigating an uncertain path

7 November 2019

Review: Strut Dance and Tura New Music, “In Situ 2019” ·
Cyril Jackson Senior Campus, 6 November ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

I’ve always loved the premise of “In Situ”. An annual program of site-specific works by Perth-based independent choreographers and composers, “In Situ” has taken audiences on adventures through various local buildings since its 2014 premiere in Uncle Joe’s Mess Hall (a café-cum-barbershop in the Perth CBD), including Fremantle Arts Centre (2015), the State Theatre Centre of WA (2016), St George’s Cathedral (2017) and East Perth’s Girls School creative precinct (2018).

Curated by Serena Chalker and Geordie Crowley with Daisy Saunders, this year’s program has moved further east again, to Cyril Jackson Senior Campus in Bassendean. And that’s not the only thing that’s different.

Until now, the basic formula for “In Situ” has remained the same: a walking tour of the venue, with different works presented in different (and sometimes surprising) locations.

The twist this year is that punters are not guided from work to work but are free to wander the venue. It’s not often that we get to view dance installation-style and, personally, I enjoy choosing how much time to spend with each work. So I approached the preview of “In Situ” with interest.

On arrival at the season’s preview, audience members were presented with a program, the cover of which is a map of the venue. The school gates were opened and we were released into the school grounds.

As one the audience headed to the first visible performance (Roam, by choreographer Scott Galbraith and composer Alexander Turner) at the end of an outdoor walkway, but as I was at the back of the pack, I couldn’t see. I looked around but there were no other signs of life, only dimly lit school buildings. I consulted my map but wasn’t sure where I was in relation to the five marked performance spaces.

With guidance I found my way to another vantage point but that feeling of confusion – and anxiety about possibly missing key elements of the five works – remained with me. My anxiety heightened when I realised (about halfway through the program!) that, contrary to my assumption that all works would be running continuously, there was a running order and, in some cases, the works only ran for a short period of time. I was filled with sudden horror that I may have missed a work entirely.

Post-show, I wonder if the uncertainty I experienced is intended by the curatorial team, given that the works themselves all have a mysterious, even discomforting quality.

A man holds a water balloon to his head. he is bathed in sunlight.
Ritualistic: Scott Galbraith in ‘Roam’. Photo: Emma Fishwick

Though I missed the opening of Roam (performed by Galbraith and Turner), I enjoyed the almost ritualistic way Galbraith navigates and handles the many greyscale water balloons that frame the work. When he flung one to meet its watery end against the brick wall of a classroom, a fellow audience member remarked with a sigh, “Deeply satisfying.”

The second work I came upon was All Hit Radio FM, by choreographer Joshua Pether and composer Dane Yates. This work sees “the spirit of Bassendean” (dancer Nadia Martich) waft and wend her way – not aimlessly but perhaps endlessly – between translucent sheets that, on Wednesday night, billowed like ghosts in the night-time breeze.

A dancer pressed up against a translucent sheet
Nadia Martich as ‘the Spirit of Bassendean’ in ‘All Hit FM Radio’. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Moving around a corner I saw clusters of audience members, donning headphones and peering into the windows of the Artshouse. Inside was Preparations for the future and other catastrophic events, by choreographer Michelle Aitken with performers Mitchell Aldridge and Jessie Camilleri-Seeber, and composer Rebecca Riggs-Bennett. Here, two dancers power through a studio space; eddying and falling as though caught in a slipstream. Viewers choose between two sound channels; though I only experienced each briefly it seemed that one was driving, the other more meditative, and it was interesting to witness the way the different soundscapes affected the mood of this dynamic work. But all too soon it was over – it seemed I had arrived well into the piece’s duration.

Hoping for more I waited at the Artshouse, in case the dancers returned. By the time I ventured to the carpark, where a performer (Turner) encased in another translucent sheet careered inside a circle of fairy lights, that work – Turner’s rerail – was almost finished too.

Two men stand facing one another. One clasps the other's face.
Yvan Karlsson and Tao Issaro make a magical team in ‘fired but not yet glazed’. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

And so to fired but not yet glazed, created and performed by choreographer Yvan Karlsson and composer Tao Issaro. Unlike the rest of the program, the audience was ushered into the performance space – a ceramic studio – so all saw this compelling work in its entirety. Exploring ideas about facing the world when one feels not yet completely grown-up or “glazed”, this work is a gorgeous melange of clay on skin, of sinuous, sinewy movement; coupled with a delicious score of live-performed vocals and percussion played on a mix of found and traditional instruments, mixed with recorded sounds. As both creators and performers Issaro and Karlsson make a magical team.

It’s pleasing to see the curatorial team experimenting with the format of “In Situ”, and the program is worth catching, but at the preview I felt that more guidance or information would have been beneficial for audience members.

“In Situ” runs until November 9.

Pictured top are Jessie Camilleri-Seeber and Mitchell Aldridge in ‘Preparations for the future and other catastrophic events’. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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