Three dancers, all covering their eyes. One wears grey shiny leggings and is naked aside from that. One wears a bottle green criushed velvet unitard One wears hot pink shiny leggings and a black shirt
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Provocative and challenging

Review: Jo Lloyd, Confusion for Three ·
PICA Performance Space, 15 November ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Jo Lloyd is a Melbourne-based independent choreographer and one who has interested me for a couple of years now. It was in 2016 that I had my first chance to see Lloyd’s work; she was the choreographer for Nicola Gunn’s quirky and clever Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster, presented at PICA as part of Fringe World. Lloyd’s witty and perceptive choreography capitalised on Gunn’s exuberance and was as integral to the storytelling as the script. The absurdity, the unexpectedness of the movement appealed to me enormously. Reading about Lloyd’s other work, it seemed that this is characteristic of her style. So when I saw that Lloyd’s Confusion for Three was coming to Perth, I was excited.

The name Confusion for Three is apt. There are three dancers (Rebecca Jensen, Shian Law and Lloyd) and there is confusion on many levels. For me, the most striking of the confusing elements was aesthetic. Clad in clashing colours, patterns and textures (think shiny hot pink leggings, a bottle green crushed velvet unitard teamed with a red shirt), the dancers perform movement that is deliberately awkward.

From corners of the startlingly white stage, the dancers either eye one another (and fleetingly the audience) warily, or ignore the other dancers completely. Duane Morrison’s evocative soundscape is ominous, rumbling and hissing. One by one, the dancers traverse the blinding whiteness, with movements that are angular, stuttering, uncomfortable. At times, bodies intersect but these meetings feel like unwanted entanglements rather than unions.

Two dancers how a third upside down. There appears to be a struggle.
Bodies intersect but these meetings feel like unwanted entanglements rather than unions. L-R: Shian Law, Jo Lloyd, Rebecca Jensen. Photo: Christophe Canato.

The discomfort is heightened by the bright lighting that ensures there is no cloak of darkness to protect the audience. Though it’s the dancers who shed their layers to finish naked from the waist up, it almost feels like we’re the ones who are exposed.

Reading the program notes by dramaturg Anny Mokotow, there is no question that this discomfort is intended. “Confusion,” she says, “… is a conversation on the state of the body as a contemporary beast, one that ventures to challenge aesthetics.” Later she says, “Confusion is a physical language, a means of communication that will always remain in process. The process continues, the confusion never quite sorted.”

There are occasional moments of harmony, levity and relief. Towards the end, the dancers clamber up a series of suspended straps to form a twisting and swinging rope of bodies. Peppered throughout are moments of humour. “There’s no story,” Shian Law confides quietly to the front row. Other moments teeter perilously between slapstick and violence. Are we meant to laugh? Again, I think the uncertainty is intended.

I found Confusion for Three perplexing – but clearly that is what it hopes to achieve. As a work that seeks to provoke and challenge our assumptions about the aesthetics and purpose of movement, Confusion for Three is successful. The three dancers, too, are to be commended for their po-faced intensity and commitment to movement that is often harsh and unforgiving.

Nonetheless, I found it hard to engage with the concept. Call me old-fashioned, but I enjoy watching dance that is designed to appeal aesthetically in some way, whether it be through movement quality, spectacle or comedy. Confusion for Three was, however, warmly and enthusiastically applauded on opening night, so maybe you should come down to PICA and see for yourself?

Confusion for Three plays PICA Performance Space until November 17.

Pictured top L-R: Jo Lloyd, Shian Law, Rebecca Jensen. Photo: Christophe Canato.

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