Review :: Return to Sender

November 28th 2011


Imagine if you could remix life.

What would look different if an artist scooped up your lifestyle and loved ones, applied some inspiration from elsewhere and improved on the original? It’d be a cover version, essentially, of you. Mine, ideally, would take all the best bits of me but strip everything else back so it’s all slower and sexier. I’d still be me, here, typing this at my day job, but there’d be moodier lighting and some synthy glitches and James Blake shimmying around my desk.

Return to Sender got me thinking along these lines. The new Performance Space show is premised on remix and interpretation. The concept is strong: pull together eight Sydney dancers and ask them to recreate the choreography, score or essence of an international peer’s work. Dance-y types tell me that many Australian dancers traditionally take gap years, pirouetting around the world and collecting ideas along the way; Return to Sender is a way to put all the perambulation in to practice back home. The collection is anchored in Exchange, a season at Performance Space exploring the ways we share, trade and reciprocate.

It’s a cool idea. There are seven works performed by eight artists, and they all interpret the brief differently. One features a German choreographer watching on and collaborating through a live Skype feed, another sees an Australian dancer using her amazing eidetic memory to recreate a dance she saw once, six years ago. Latai Taumoepeau’s piece gracefully exploring Tongan time-space theory is hypnotising.

But the focus on process over product did not always feel justified. I watched these pieces waiting for some story or understanding, or at least something visually breathtaking or beautiful, and it never really arrived. The disparate collection of style produced a mixed-bag effect; the strong concept didn’t translate to a physical thread, and a visible motif would have helped tie the pieces together. Maybe also this was a dancer’s dance—it’s hard to fully appreciate the remix if you haven’t heard original. In Year 8, for example, I was convinced nothing could top Britney Spears’ take on Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Rookie error.


Read more from Nick La Rosa