Dance review: Symbiosis, Perth FRINGE WORLD

Dance inspired by the hypnotic beats of club culture.

Symbiosis is an experimental foray into electronic dance culture performed by the members of a new Perth-based movement collective, TriplOcate DMC (DANCE-MAKE-COLLABORATE). 

TriplOcate co-founders, Meg Scheffers and Sami Jane Smith, collaborated with sound artist, Peter McAvan and visual artist, Ash Morgan, to realise their vision for a multi-disciplinary performance that presents club culture as performance art. The work is made to appeal to a broad audience, including those perhaps unfamiliar to house, techno, trance, dubstep, or other forms of electronic dance music (EDM). The performance offers a glimpse into the hypnotic freedom of the dance floor discharged through electronic entrancement.

McAvan’s live performance has heavy emphasis on 4 x 4 beat structure. Phrases are repetitious and unrelenting; a synthesized bass line pumping for most of the 40-minute performance, with some disruption through mystical ambient and vocal sounds. At times, the music slows, but is never silent. The dancers’ bodies are invigorated by electronic beats reminiscent of 1980-90s raves in Germany and the USA, with repeated thumping and dramatic builds mirrored in the rapid staccato beat of the dancers as their movement fuses with music. With shifts of sound, the bodies become moving shapes in the smoky haze and green washes of the Biology Room at the Girls School venue.

Read: Exhibition review: Undertow, Fremantle Arts Centre

Scheffers and Smith appear comfortable with their vocabulary of electronic dance movement, interspersed at times with gentle breaking, jazz isolations, slow-motion, and stillness. Together with dancer Campbell Gateley they create movement patterns in unison and also, as soloists sharing the same space, each lost in mesmeric sound. Gateley’s long limbs embrace levels of height and depth, revealing himself a contemporary dancer of considerable strength and control.

Morgan responds to the movement of the dancers with long sweeping brushes of fluorescent paint on square canvas attached to the wall next to the sound desk. The silhouette brushstrokes are layered with various colours, at times in response to a particular dancer; at other times as an independent artist arcing colour as abstract form in the haze of the darkened room. Lines of the body are repeated in lines of paint. Morgan remains impassive as she works which has the effect of creating emotional disconnect from the other performers and audience members.  

The collective is interested in activating new spaces for performances but struggled to animate the tightly constructed performance zones within the small classroom at the Girls School. Audience members pressed against two opposing walls of the room, careful to not overstep tape that outlined the performance space in the centre of the room. The movement and sound felt constrained by the tight space, a lack of emotion on performers’ faces dissuading patrons from responding as interactive participants. Perhaps a club venue where audiences might dance alongside or with the performers would better activate the space, inviting participatory social engagement whilst questioning the very nature of performance? Who is participant/ performer/ spectator in the context of electronic dance cultures?

TriplOcate entices interest in EDM and club culture through Symbiosis – a debut production which could develop community engagement with movement experiences in the future: an exciting beginning!

TriplOcate DMC
Presented by FRINGE WORLD
Biology Room, Girls School, East Perth
Artistic Directors and Movement Artists: Meg Scheffers, Sami Jane Smith 
Sound Designer: Peter McAvan
Visual Artist: Ash Morgan
Performers: Meg Scheffers, Sami Jane Smith, Campbell Gateley  

Symbiosis was performed from 8-13 February 2022

Lucinda Coleman is an Adjunct Lecturer (Research) and sessional Lecturer in Performance at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Edith Cowan University.