DANCE BITES 2011: A mesmerizing double bill that is both thoughtfully produced and thought provoking.
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Part of the 2011 Dance Bites season, Forseen combines two works that are explorations of memory – both spiritual and physical – and what remains once we ‘move on: The Dark Room by Narelle Benjamin, and Debris by Francis Rings.

Both were originally choreographed in 2007, The Dark Room for the Australian Ballet’s ‘Bodytorque’ season, and Debris for the West Australian Ballet’s ‘Quarry’ season. Both Benjamin and Rings have previously worked together with Bangarra Dance Theatre, and as choreographers of the double bill INTO for the 2008 Sydney Festival show, About an Hour.

Memory is a crucial part of the experience of returning to the works four years afterwards for Benjamin and Rings, not only in the remounting of the steps, but in remembering who they were as artists then, and why these particular works were produced at that time.

For both works, the cast of six dancers (Eric Avery, Jana Castillo, Benjamin Hancock, Chrissy Norford, Katina Olsen and Paul White) is superb.

Narelle Benjamin’s work is first, opening with a striking column of light on sculptural movement. Overall, the work has a dreamlike quality, as if we are in the world between sleep and dreams. Samuel Jame’s projections are most effectively used – in one section of film the dancers are trapped in ‘bubbles’ that look like the Earth, and there is a wonderful segment of a mouldy haunted house, quite fairytale like. Some of the show is quite sci-fi in a way too – is there a rift in time and space and we can see into a parallel universe? Another possible reading is that it is about broken and/or lost relationships.

The hypnotic, pulsating sharp edged score incorporating music by Huey Benjamin and The Necks is brilliant.

The dancers are mostly in black trunks and grey tops. Benjamin’s choreography is fluid and flexible with lots of floor work and an emphasis on using the back. It is quite sculptural, a concentrates on circular floor patterns. I also noted a liking for ‘fourth position’ with extremely neatly turned out feet. There are some brilliant duos/trios (especially for White, Castillo and Norford) and a terrific male pas de deux ( Hancock and White).

After interval was Ring’s Debris, based on the idea of Aboriginal middens and sacred spaces; and also, perhaps, the haunted debris of discarded emotions/relationships. You can see Rings’ Bangarra ‘style’ to some extent in the choreography, but it is subtle. The Aboriginal influence is also evident in the baskets the women wear and the white face paint.

Texture in the intriguing costumes by India Flint is very important (I loved the tattered, layered costumes for the opening section for example, and the layer of white mesh over the spattered tops in another).

Again there is a sense of loss, haunting and returning to a previously loved space. Are the dancers in one section in their white dresses ghosts? In another section there is a sense of flying, floating in the space. There is some very strong, athletic work, particularly for the men. White has an enthralling solo and Hancock is also featured.

A most exciting double bill that leaves the audience entranced and wanting more.

A double bill featuring The Dark Room by Narelle Benjamin, and Debris by Francis Rings
Dancers: Eric Avery, Jana Castillo, Benjamin Hancock, Chrissy Norford, Katina Olsen and Paul White
Composer: (The Dark Room) Huey Benjamin Visual Design (The Dark Room) Samuel James
Lighting Design Karen Norris Producer Rosalind Richards-Artful Management
Running time: 90 minutes including interval

Riverside Theatre
April 6 – 9

Bangarra Studio Theatre
April 15 – 16 See the production’s Arts Hub event listing for more details.

Lynne Lancaster
About the Author
Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.