A request fest for our times

9 November 2021

Dreamy nostalgia meets supercool dance moves in Amrita Hepi’s song-dedication-driven dance show, and Nina Levy says it’s worth tuning in.

Outside In, Amrita Hepi ·
7 November, The Naval Store as part of Fremantle Biennale ·

At once funny and poignant, Amrita Hepi’s dance and audio work Outside In takes the concept of the radio song dedication and gives it a pandemic twist.

Like a radio station, you can tune into Outside In at any time during its performance schedule of two hours, by wandering into Fremantle’s light-filled Naval Store-turned-gallery (the audio continues throughout the gallery’s opening hours).

Tyrone Robinson has replaced his sneakers with stiletto ankle boots. His back is to the audience, his arms are extended above his head, one hand on top of the other, his stance is wide and knees bent.
Tyrone Earl Lraé Robinson is beautifully cast in ‘Outside In’. Photo supplied

Responding to the border closures that have separated family members and friends since the advent of COVID-19, Melbourne-based Bundjulung and Ngapuhi choreographer Hepi set up an international telephone hotline for people to leave dedications and songs for those they are missing.

The idea comes from Noongar Radio’s Inside Out, a radio show connecting those who are separated from one another by the prison system.

Hosted by Hepi herself, the radio show is a mash-up of these phoned-in requests, brought to grooving and undulating life by local dancer Tyrone Earl Lraé Robinson. The whole thing has a distinctly nostalgic feel, from Hepi’s laconic delivery, to the lo-fi quality of the recorded requests.

The presence of old-school work-tables (belonging to adjoining exhibition “Millenial Reaper”) at which some audience members sit, adds to the effect, as does the late afternoon sun streaming through the windows.

Though occasionally poor quality telephone connections make it hard to discern the details of dedications, the sentiments reach us nonetheless. A particularly touching one is Hepi’s own missive to her father who died just three years ago (Song: “Can We Talk” by Tevin Campbell). There’s the bittersweet “I hope we can overcome our differences” (Depeche’s Mode’s “Shake the Disease”), and the dreamy “I don’t know you but I always wonder, ‘what if?’” (“If”, by Davido)

And then there’s Robinson. A versatile mover, he’s beautifully cast here. Clad in red Adidas shorts, black tee and sneakers, he casually morphs between disco-style lip-synching, twerking, jazzy kick-ball changes, melting body ripples, melodramatic mime, … whatever the song demands. In the 40-odd minutes that I witnessed, Robinson grooved to Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together”, writhed to Death Grip’s “Guillotine”, and channelled Beyonce to the stuttering cool of Cobrah’s “Debut” (cue change into stiletto boots) among others.

My personal favourite was the aforementioned “Shake the Disease”, accompanied by what can best be described as Aerobics Oz-low-key-style; coolly comical. A special mention goes out to a perfectly timed backspin in “Dedicated to the One I Love” (but I can’t promise a repeat; the choreography is structured improvisation).

Outside In returns to Fremantle Biennale 18-20 November and it’s well worth dropping in to experience a little of Robinson’s cool charisma and Hepi’s down-to-earth charm.

Outside In continues at The Naval Store 18-20 November 2021, and the installation continues until 21 November 2021, both as part of Fremantle Biennale.

Pictured top is Tyrone Earl Lraé Robinson in ‘Outside In’ by Amrita Hepi. Photo supplied

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked for over a decade as an arts writer and critic. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. Nina was co-editor of Dance Australia magazine from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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