Reviews/Dance/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Unknowable landscapes

11 February 2020

Jo Pickup is led into curious worlds of turmoil and struggle in the contemporary dance work, Desire Lines.

Review: Lauren Catellani and Fonder Physical Theatre, Desire Lines ·
Biology, Girls’ School, 10 February 2020 ·
Review by Jo Pickup ·

What we see in Desire Lines is not a work set in stone. Rather it’s a non-narrative, abstract series of motions.

This contemporary dance duet is choreographed by recent WA Academy of Performing Arts graduate Lauren Catellani, of local independent ensemble Fonder Physical Theatre. This year’s Fringe World show builds upon Fonder’s fringe output over several years, such as last year’s Watering, and 2018’s Here.Moving. Four dancers – Jessie Camilleri-Seeber, Mani Mae Gomes, Mitchell Spadaro and Sarah Sim – are performing in this season, in different pairings each night.

On opening night Camilleri-Seeber and Sim begin this new work by offering us whispers that soon build into storms. We encounter the dancers sitting languidly together on a white plastered floor. They quietly repeat short questions and answers to each other in a series of word plays. But the soft dialogue soon morphs into more intangible, abstract sounds, building in volume as if the dancers were expunging inner demons.

As their voices erupt, their bodies are laid almost bare before us. But they are also partially plastered – each dancer has one arm firmly cast in plaster against her chest. These white slips of plaster seem to speak of constraint, the bodies beneath desperately yearning to break free.

As the dancers rise from the floor they gently move out of their plastered selves. They lean and balance on one another, skilfully shifting weight back and forth. The dynamic between the pair is wonderfully easy and rhythmic as they shift through gentle embraces to swells of shuddering pulses. Catellani’s instinct for building poetic strings of cyclical movement is on full display here.

The piece continues at a graceful speed as the dancers dive and collapse into the plastered ocean at their feet. Sound designer Alexander Turner’s electronic score intermittently hums into being, surrounding the couple in surging tonal waves.

These sequences are unhurried and drawn out – perhaps too slow for some. And there are no firm guidelines to follow. The performers’ moves are often loose (yet poised), and the journey is free roaming in parts, though there are also intense, minutely designed moments throughout that deliberately draw us into curious worlds of turmoil and struggle.

If you are not a contemporary dance enthusiast, you will need to let go and slow down to enjoy the detail of this nuanced offering. So breathe out, settle in, and be open to this fine example of dance that passes through unknowable landscapes; both physical and emotional.

Desire Lines is on until 16 February 2020.

Picture top are Mani Mae Gomes and Mitchell Spadaro in an alternative casting of ‘Desire Lines’. Photo: Sarah Sim

Lauren Catellani is a contributor to Seesaw.

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Author —
Jo Pickup

Jo Pickup is an arts writer, lecturer & manager. She has worked as a journalist and broadcaster for the ABC, RTRFM and The West Australian Newspaper. She has also worked for arts organisations such as Fremantle Arts Centre and STRUT dance. Her favourite piece of playground equipment is the seesaw (of course!).

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