A tarnished golden age?

31 January 2023

Underneath rose-tinted nostalgia Kim Balfour finds darker truths in dance theatre work Ignorance Was Bliss.

Ignorance Was Bliss, Enneagon Movement
Rehearsal room 1, State Theatre Centre of WA, 29 January 2023

Ignorance Was Bliss reveals a golden age, where memories of “the good old days” are as authentic as the laugh track from your favourite nostalgic TV show.

But is the past as shiny as it seems?

Presented by emerging dance collective Enneagon Movement, Ignorance Was Bliss seeks to draw comparisons between the past and the present. Its Fringe World premiere was slickly delivered, and its simplicity belies the darkness of its underlying message.

The dance theatre work opens with a whimsical black and white film parodying the opening credits of an old television show. What follows is a juxtaposed combination of salacious, misogynistic and mundane commercial characterisations of suburban life, which reveals the past to be an unsettling, unpleasant and uncanny landscape.

Choreographer/performers Giorgia Schijf and Minni Karamfiles have created a smooth, flowing work for their company of five dancers, who effortlessly shift between spoken word, dance, comedy and physical theatre. On the minimalist set, comprised of two old lounge chairs and a lamp, the cast play out colourful interactions as specific family members living in a bygone era.

Two young people play tug of war with a piece of fabric.
Playing out colourful interactions: Francesca Fenton and Isabelle Leclezio in ‘Ignorance Was Bliss’. Photo: Mitchell Aldridge

At a later point in the work, dark whimsy gives way to a more earnest and reflective mood. The set is washed in a sepia hue and a melancholy soundscape creates a reverential atmosphere. Old footage of early migrant families navigating their new lives is projected onto a screen, as they tell stories about life in their community – religion, relationships, lawnmowers and Hills Hoist clotheslines.  

Conceptually, Ignorance Was Bliss suggests that we have emerged from an era of innocence and ignorance – but this is always true. Recent social media privacy scandals, online scams, bigotry and popular reactionary movements indicate that we are at all times immersed in ignorance, sometimes wilfully so. Ignorance can elicit bliss for some people, but there is no bliss for anyone forced to suffer the ignorance of others. With this frame, Ignorance Was Bliss uses rose-coloured nostalgia to reveal stark reminders about our current circumstances.

Given that Ignorance Was Bliss is a small-scale, low budget work of 45 minutes, it is a wonderfully produced piece of dance theatre, with its important and easily accessible messaging expressed beautifully by a talented team of performers.

Ignorance Was Bliss had a short season which is now finished but you can follow Eneaggon Movement on Facebook and Instagram to find out about future seasons.

Pictured top: Not so innocent. Minni Karamfiles, Giorgia Schijf and Francesca Fenton in ‘Ignorance Was Bliss’. Photo: Mitchell Aldridge

A scene from Ignorance Was Bliss depicting all five dancers sitting on two armchairs.
Family members in a bygone era. L-R: Tom Mullane, Isabelle Leclezio, Minni Karamfiles, Francesca Fenton, Giorgia Schijf. Photo: Mitchell Aldridge

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Author —
Kim Balfour

Kim Balfour is a writer and former professional dancer, who has danced with companies such as WA Ballet and Sydney Dance Company. Kim has worked as a freelance writer for more than 15 years, including the role of dance writer for The West Australian newspaper. In 2020, Kim was selected as a writer-in-residence at the Centre for Stories, and is writing a work of creative nonfiction on gender identity and expression in dance. As a child Kim was sometimes seen sitting on a gently spinning playground carousel, deep in thought, staring at her feet as they dragged along the ground.

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