Reviews/Contemporary dance/Dance/Perth Festival

Edgy Equations adds up to festival must-see

23 February 2023

Laura Boynes’ Equations of a Falling Body is an explosive mix of dance and physical theatre that will live long in the memory, writes Rita Clarke.

Equations of a Falling Body, Laura Boynes
Studio Underground, 22 February 2023

Laura Boynes’ Equations of a Falling Body is an explosive assault on the senses; a mix of dance and physical theatre, lit dramatically in torchlight, mist and shadow (Matt Marshall), and backed by a chilling sound design and passionate composition (Felicity Groom and Tristen Parr).

If it is explosive for spectators, it is, says the inimitable Laura Boynes, “a wild and thrilling ride” for the dancers (Ella-Rose Trew, James O’Hara and Timothy Green). They can’t rely, as usual, on muscle memory because Boynes choreographs Equations of a Falling Body in “real time”. 

She sends instructions to the performers through earpieces, affording her the ability to change the context, if not the structure, in each sequence on a daily basis.

By choosing this mode of choreography she can, she says, reflect on how perplexing and volatile, yet still beautiful, the world has become since she first started working on this piece in pre-COVID 2019.

We are reminded of the title of this creation immediately on opening, as the light invades the dark set and concentrates on James O’Hara’s body. Attached by the waist, he slowly descends from the ceiling into a pool of water, reflecting his spartan attire and his flailing arms and legs. Boynes has confessed to a love of the cinematic and this dramatic debut is certainly visually arresting and sets the tone for all that follows. 

A man lies in a shallow pool of water.
James O’Hara‘s dramatic debut sets the tone for all that follows. Photo: Chris Symes

Paramount is the lack of illusion. We are privy to the building up and deconstruction of sequences, change of clothing and set (Bruce McKinven) by the dancers.

We watch whilst O’Hara, having been swirled around on the rope, is unchained, dowsed with water and helped to struggle upright. Disability and a helping hand is thematic and repeated in a sequence on the blind helplessness of the silk worm, imprisoned for a mere square of silk, the travails of babies trying to walk, and the vulnerability of moths. 

Equations of a Falling Body takes a while to get into but you are soon swept up in the spectacle and intrigued by the machinations of dancers, who illuminate events with torches attached to their foreheads. In between they manipulate props and drag green and silver carpets around, breaking into exquisite dance – duets, solos and a final trio.

You are seduced by the beautiful cinematic quality of scenes and the sudden influx of classical music, particularly the soaring tones of Elina Garanca singing My Heart Opens to your Voice to Trew and O’Hara’s duet, in which they swing each other around and around on their shoulders. 

Two crash helmet-wearing men, one supporting the other around his waist, perform an acrobatic dance routine.
Timothy Green and James O’Hara providing a moment of hilarity. Photo: Chris Symes

There are also moments of hilarity. In particular Green and O’Hara’s incompetent circus acrobatic act prompts a burst of laughter and applause from the audience.

But upper-most is the chaos. When Trew gets caught up in a long narrow silver carpet and is upended in upright circles of the coarse material it is a sudden reminder of the recent earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria and people being imprisoned, like the silkworm, but in concrete not leaves.

And, perhaps alluding to the recent floods, white, cover-all body suits, in parachute-like material, are inflated by a huge wind fan until they resemble human figures which are then blown away, across the floor, tossed like mere pieces of litter.

Equations of a Falling Body is the kind of show you hope to see in the Perth Festival – innovative, visually stunning and totally memorable. 

Pictured top: Ella Rose Trew and Timothy Green perform in the innovative and visually stunning ‘Equations of a Falling Body’. Photo: Chris Symes

Equations of a Falling Body continues at Studio Underground until 26 February 2023

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Author —
Rita Clarke

Whilst studying arts at UWA Rita found herself working at Radio 6UVSfm presenting the breakfast and Arts shows, and writing and producing various programs for ABC’s Radio National. A wordsmith at heart she also began writing features and reviews on theatre, film and dance for The Australian, The Financial Review, The West Australian, Scooby and other magazines. Tennis keeps her fit, and her family keeps her happy, as does writing now for Seesaw.

Past Articles

  • Rewriting tradition with skill and charm

    It’s a privilege to witness the stunning dexterity of choreographer Raghav Handa and musician Maharshi Raval as they disrupt the traditional roles of Indian dance with grace and charisma, says Rita Clarke.

  • Straight talk reveals resilience behind anguish

    Despite its focus on the inhumanity of incarceration, Jurrungu Ngan-ga has the audience laughing and on its feet with admiration, writes Rita Clarke.

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