Sense of Wander’s gentle, meditative atmosphere makes it a fitting dance work for our times, Nina Levy says.
Sense of Wander, April Vardy ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, 21 January, 2021 ·
Even before the pandemic hit and many of us were forced into a state of suspended animation, the concepts of living in the moment and accepting uncertainty were ubiquitous in both popular and professional conversations about mental health.
And so Sense of Wander, with its invitation to “sit with us in a state of limbo” and “discard feeling ‘lost’ and perhaps embrace curiosity”, feels like a dance work for our times.
Directed and choreographed by local emerging dance artist April Vardy, Sense of Wander has a meditative quality that reflects that interest in wandering “in the moment” and observing the present. To a soundscape by composer Louis Frere-Harvey that begins as stretches of gentle drawn-out chords interspersed with static, six dancers cross the dark and empty space of the State Theatre Centre’s Rehearsal Room 1. Sometimes they move as a single organism of many stretching and contracting torsos and limbs, other times as individuals spiralling and curlicuing along separate paths.
An animation of delicately drawn figures – faceless outlines that are surprisingly expressive – is projected onto a large screen above the dancers. Designed by multi-talented young visual artist, animator and dance artist Sarah Sim, the mesmerising figures appear as solo performers, sitting in window frames, looking at the night sky, dissolving and re-forming throughout the work. At times I felt torn between watching the animation and watching the live dancers – from my seat it wasn’t possible to do both (more about that later).
There’s no question that Sense of Wander succeeds in terms of its aims, but eventually the steadiness of the movement quality made me yearn for a change of dynamic. Towards the end, layers of percussion, vocals and other synthesised sounds begin to build pleasingly, and it seems that the movement is about to blossom … but it quickly curls back in on itself.
Also challenging are the sight lines. The first seven or so rows of seats are not raked, and from the fifth row we felt we would only be able to see the dancers from the waist up, if we were lucky. We were allowed to move forward, but even in the second row we felt we were watching through a forest of heads, unable to see the full picture unfolding before us.
Nonetheless, Sense of Wander is performed with deft assurance by its relatively young cast (two members have just finished high school). Though the aspects mentioned above give it a work-in-progress feel, Sense of Wander makes for a gentle and calming 35 or so minutes, a welcome respite from the freneticism of Fringe.
Pictured top: Feelings of calm in ‘Sense of Wander’. Photo: Hannah Laurent
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