Review :: Matthew Day :: Intermission

June 24th 2012

Everyone likes experimental dance right? Well, er, no.

I light of Jill Sykes’ dismissal, I’m compelled to defend Matthew Day’s final installment in a trilogy of self-choreographed dance works, Intermission, which is showing at PACT Theatre until 30 June. It is exactly because it is challenging, even hard to watch, that it is interesting.

I should mention, I don’t really like the description “experimental” because it makes me think of naked bodies being written on with lipstick and fake blood, but it is appropriate here in the sense that Day establishes a strict and controlled method of exploration – a hypothesis; the outcome of which is discovered in the doing. To ride this metaphor a little more, it is a change of state or transformation that we, the audience, have come to observe, but we might also consider ourselves as litmus for the result of the work, the ultimate experience of which is left to our own design.

There is an immediate sense of removal from the outside world, as we are led in one-by-one through a dark passage to the seating bank. One effect of this was to suspend conversation. The audience sat silent as the barely perceptible dancer shuffled in front of us. Later as I tried to grasp at fleeting images and gestures that dissolved as they were performed I thought that this work created a space beyond (before or after?) words.

After anticipation, the rumbling began. The signature sub-bass of sound-designer James Brown enveloping us in a bubble that we would not leave until the end of the show. This is what first made me think of waves, the manifestation of these deep sounds I could feel all through my body, though it became clear that the wave formation was also the focus of Day’s choreography. The dance began small, a sad man at a disco I remember thinking as he shuffled from foot to foot faintly grimacing. The movement grew, coalescing with his whole body as he traced a path through the space, consumed by relentless, ever shifting, waves.

An impeccable lighting design (by Travis Hodgson) is true to Day’s cited  “minimalism” in design (Realtime, 109), with a few concessions. Evenly-spaced down lights first hover at a glow to look like a fleet of UFOs, before finally coming up to reveal a masterfully crafted space, sleek in the usually grungy PACT Theatre. The glossy black floor is frostily lit to give it a grey sheen – a hyper real concrete, or linoleum in a church hall kitchen maybe.

I’m not sure how long it went for. I was subsumed at times by my own waves of boredom, and am a little ashamed to admit that I had my eyes closed when I found it abruptly end. Yet the experience of feeling time stretch and come together, the journeys of my mind wandering and returning to the stimulus of the piece, and the sheer endurance and intensity in Day’s performance made it rewarding. As Day continues to tour and perform the other works in the trilogy, Thousands – a study in stillness, and Cannibal – a study in vibration, I encourage, nay, challenge you to check them out.

What: Dance, ‘Intermission’
Who: Choreographer, dancer Matthew Day
Where: PACT Theatre , 107 Railway Pde, Erskineville
When: 19-30 June, Tuesday-Saturday, 8pm
How much: $15/$20, tickets on sale here


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