What do hotel workers see that we don’t? They grow accustomed to being invisible, observing the intimacies of strangers from the sidelines, moving quietly through liminal spaces and attending to their own routines in laundries, kitchens and staff dining rooms tucked discretely out of sight.
Conversely, when you look at a person with a disability, is the disability all you see? What of that person’s inner life; their emotional life, their relationships?
What else goes unobserved by you and the world at large?
Intimate Space, the latest work from South Australian company Restless Dance Theatre, explores such questions in a promenade work staged within the rooms and corridors of Adelaide’s Hilton Hotel. The audience, limited to 10 at a time, meet in the hotel foyer for an introduction that quietly but pointedly comments on issues of exclusion and access, and also offers instructions in a playfully original way. Subsequently we are guided through a series of engaging dance vignettes performed in a range of environments, accompanied throughout by composer Jason Sweeney’s compelling and evocative score.
At the end of a corridor three artfully lit bodies share a brief moment before separating and disappearing. In a hotel room lit by hand-held torches, a young couple recline together, their movements gentle and sincere. The tone becomes more urgent: in a laundrette, two men dance together in a sequence evoking the stressful and repetitive pace of workers’ lives as towels tumble through the air. We eavesdrop on staff shrieking with laughter as they discuss the foibles of their clientele.
Donning headphones, we watch a tense duet performed in a public space and to a soundtrack only we can hear, as motor racing devotees attending Adelaide’s Clipsal 500 edge past, their unspoken curiosity and assumptions weaving their way into the performance. Later, gazing down at the public bar, we hear whispers of accusation and concern questioning the agency and activities of people with disabilities as the cast come together to perform a dance sequence in which desire and distance, attraction and rejection play out on couches and on the stairs.
Choreographically the work is not always adventurous, but this is compensated for by the exceptional mise en scène and the insights the piece provides into personal behaviours in shared domains.
By turns tender and provocative, Intimate Space invites us to contemplate questions of public and private activity in a work that is insightful, touching and compelling.
3.5 stars out of 4
Restless Dance Theatre
Director: Michelle Ryan
Assistant to the Director:Josephine Were
Composer: Jason Sweeney
Lighting Design: Geoff Cobham
Costume Design: Meg Wilson
Performers: Restless Dance Theatre dancers and associate artists
The Hilton Hotel, Adelaide
3-19 March 2017
3-19 March 2017
Richard Watts visited Adelaide as a guest of Adelaide Festival.