Hotel hidey-holes make perfect performance spaces

27 August 2021

Whether cool, creepy or comical, ‘Situ8:Hotel’ is another terrific program of site-specific work from STRUT Dance and Tura New Music, writes Nina Levy.

‘Situ8:Hotel’, STRUT Dance, Tura New Music, LINK Dance Company and Alex Hotel ·
Alex Hotel, 26 August ·

Taking the audience on a short, ascending tour of the Alex Hotel, “Situ8:Hotel” is a mixed bill of four original works by local choreographers and composers, performed by independent dancers and members of WAAPA’s LINK Dance Company.

It’s the seventh iteration of this annual program of site-specific dance works, presented by STRUT Dance and Tura New Music in a new location each year.

It’s also the third bill led by curatorial duo Serena Chalker and Geordie Crawley, who set the bar high with last year’s popular State Theatre Centre program.

Though smaller in scale “Situ8:Hotel” maintains the standard.

Our tour begins on the mezzanine floor of the Alex Hotel, where we are invited to don “silent disco” headphones, and then gather around a large marble and tile table, for Open Third, by choreographer Mitchell Aldridge and composer Azariah Felton.

There are six dancers seated around the table and the initially pared back movement and score mimic the cool minimalism of the room’s exposed concrete and timber frames.

Things become more charged when the dancers leave their seats. Particularly effective is a section in which four of the dancers sweep into the outdoor courtyard. From my position at a window, their movement intersected with the reflection of a dynamic duet (Aldridge with Cameron Park) that climbs the table and the ceiling’s steel girders. Felton’s score injects a beat-boxing vibe that the dancers respond to in-kind; it feels like we’re in a contemporary dance cypher. Very appealing stuff.

Moving across the mezzanine to the Alex’s “living room” space, we’re confronted by three denim-clad creatures (Celina Hage, Georgia van Gils and Luther Wilson), their heads obscured by hoods of gauze that render them almost indistinguishable from one another.

This is Soft Encounters, Boiled Dreams, in which choreographic trio Hage, van Gils and Nikki Tarling, and composers Stephen de Filippo and Kane Tenadii Hay transport us into a parallel world. It’s occupied by these strange beings who slither discomfortingly close to us at times, accompanied by a score that rhythmically samples the hotel’s own sounds (think the chinking of teaspoons, the rattle of the coffee machine), at once familiar and ominous.

Némo Gandossini-Poirier’s cleverly placed LED lights create surprising washes of colour in this normally neutral space. There’s an X-Files quality to the proceedings, particularly with the appearance of a fourth shrouded but leather coated figure (Lilly King), whose presence seems to suck the others out of the room.

Relinquishing our headphones, we are led up a fire escape and into hotel rooms, for Room 207, choreographed by Rhiana Katz and composed by Rachael Dease. With around seven audience members in each of these tiny, sparsely-furnished spaces, we’re in close proximity to a rotating cast of dancers who slip in and out of the rooms seamlessly.

It’s a maelstrom of human emotion inside; the exuberance of jumping on the bed, the cold rage of a couple at odds with one another, the delight of sleep, the anxiety of watching someone you love in free fall, the hot and desperate tears in the shower.

Ranging from music-box poignancy to sinister synthesized strings, Dease’s score encompasses these emotions with ease, while, again, Gandossini-Poirier’s LEDs shift us gently through time and mood.

Four men are moving towards a sliding glass door. The man at the front has his faced smooshed against the glass, the others appear to be trying to stop him. The room is lit magenta.
May Greenberg’s ‘Disclaimer’ is a delightful dig at macho masculinity. From back: Zachary Wilson, Sam Coren, Macon Riley and Scott Galbraith. Photo: Anthony Tran

It’s a climb to the Alex’s roof top space to see Disclaimer (by choreographer May Greenberg and composer Felicity Groom), but the exercise goes some way to off-set the shock of Djilba-cold night air.

Once up there we’re invited to peer in the windows of a small function room, in which we see four sport-jacketed male dancers (Sam Coren, Scott Galbraith, Macon Riley and Zachary Wilson) in the throes of a business meeting, complete with facial expressions that speak fluent jargon.

Crisply performed by the cast of four, Disclaimer is a gloriously physical and comical piece that takes a delightful dig at macho masculinity, with more than a dollop of slapstick. Groom’s score propels the action with layers of rollicking synthesised, instrumental and vocalised sounds.

Beautifully danced by all cast members, “Situ8:Hotel” is another innovative program of site-specific works.

My cheeky request for next year? Let’s have the music performed live.

Situ8:Hotel continues until 28 August 2021 but it is sold out!

Pictured top: Mitchell Aldridge and Cameron Park in ‘Open Third’. Photo Anthony Tran

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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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