Mountains Never Meet

PARRAMATTA RIVERSIDE THEATRE: Choreographer Martin del Amo joins forces with footballer turned performance maker Ahil Ratnamohan and collaborates with male untrained performers from Western Sydney.
[This is archived content and may not display in the originally intended format.]
Given that this production created by German-born, Sydney-based choreographer Martin del Amo was met by cheers and stamping feet at its conclusion, it’s clear the majority of the audience (and some of my colleagues) very much liked what they saw. Despite some terrific ideas informing the work – an exploration of the boundaries between dance and sport utilizing untrained community members, a la Lucy Guerin Inc’s Untrained – it left me disappointed and totally unengaged.

The opening duet, Duel, danced by footballer turned performer, Ahilan Ratnamohan and Connor van Vuuren and co-choreographed by them in collaboration with del Amo, was much more interesting and enjoyable. It was all done in slow motion – posed, frozen tableaux; the two guys interacting but not touching. In some ways it was reminiscent of the Australian Dance Theatre’s Held and Collision Course, featuring the wonderful visual effects of held sculptural frozen poses (slide, leap, jump, lunge, kick etc. and other football poses, and also some references to Olympic sports like shotput and discus). The line of the choreography was all curves and circles and there was some fancy, fleet footwork.

For the main work, del Amo worked with eight non-dancers ranging from 15 years of age to their mid-20s, all with diverse sporting and/or physical backgrounds – from hip hop crew members to engineers – and all of whom have a shared interest in choreography and performing, as typified by Ratnamohan.

The basis of the work was a series of simplified, everyday movements, e.g. walking – lots of walking – marching, running, skipping, jumping on the spot. Sometimes the walk was more like a harsh, cold march; at others it rippled in wave-like patterns up and down just one side of or across the stage.

It was as if each performer was in their own computer game world, on their separate distinct paths yet intersecting.

There was a Cunningham-like sense of rhythm and space, and I also detected possible allusions to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with the ensemble pack movement and the attention to very difficult counts and rhythms. All the dancers were dressed in layers of very casual street clothes. At one stage they removed their top layer T-shirts which became a sweaty bandanna. This was followed by some ‘cool’ ensemble work.

A squeaky shoe, one dancer going against the rhythm of everyone else, sudden fragmentary explosions of a repeated phrase of movement against the rest of the ensemble – there were some very interesting tiny fragments, but I am afraid it didn’t grab me.

It started very slowly and eerily with a single solitary walker emerging from the sidelit gloom. Gradually, all the other performers were added. The opening section went on way too long with an irritating whistle as a soundtrack, though I liked one short section towards the end, where the entire ensemble were on the floor, with very expressive arms.

As an idea involving the community and non-dancers this was terrific, but walking does not a dance make. Perhaps it’s a guy thing?

Rating: Two a half stars

Mountains Never Meet
Parramatta Riverside Theatre
August 17 – 20
Part of Western Sydney Dance Action & Riverside Theatre’s 2011 Dance Bites Program

Concept and Direction: Martin del Amo
Choreography: Martin del Amo in collaboration with the performers
Performed by Ahilan Ratnamohan and Connor van Vuuren

Mountains Never Meet
Concept, direction and choreography: Martin del Amo
Artistic collaborator: Ahilan Ratnamohan
Rehearsal assistant: Julie-Anne Long
Performers: Ravin Lotomau, Frank Mainoo, Benny Ngo, Kevin Ngo, Ahilan Ratnamohan, Mahesh Sharma, Nikki-Tala Tuiala Talaoloa, Carlo Velayo, Dani Zaradosh
Sound design: Cat Hope Lighting: Clytie Smith Costume consultant: Clare Britton Producers: Viv Rosman and Hannah Saunders for Performing Lines

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.