CLEARLY ARTICULATED IDEAS AND DESPERATE DANCE
NZ Fringe Festival 2013|
HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS AND STILL APPEAR NORMAL (2013)
Natalie Maria Clark choreographer. Collaborators - Sofia McIntyre and Sarah Elsworth
Score by Emi Pogoni
at BATS - Out Of Site - Cnr Cuba & Dixon, Wellington
From 28 Feb 2013 to 3 Mar 2013
Reviewed by Virginia Kennard, 5 Mar 2013
A self-proclaimed ‘theatrical choreography', this is a fitting term for a dance work with text as narrative, dialogue with each other and with the audience, as well as projection in its early scenes. This work is developing well, having been presented at The Body, Tempo and the Auckland Fringe and on to the Dunedin Fringe after this season. The clarity of ideas is refreshing, looking at how Clark attempts to interact with the world and how the world reacts to her attempts. Normal or not.
Clark launches into an introduction of the work and her role herein. This introduction becomes the slow deterioration of her self-esteem as she defines herself and her various titles and contribution. It is delightful and allows the audience a real sense of what is to come.
This work is not about pretty dance, or virtuosity – there is desperation here, bodies that are searching. Projected text asks, “Can I be all of it” and questions “what is it to be human”, questions of weight, but not overly angst-driven. It becomes clear throughout the work that these are questions and angsts of the director Natalie Maria Clark, as at times the two other performers become back-up dancers. Clark is clearly a different character – costumed differently, spending much of her time to the forefront of the stage (nice raised platform BATS by the way) and has the most engaged speeches with and to the audience.
That this work is about Clark primarily, or an exaggerated awkward persona thereof, works for the most part; Sofia McIntyre and Sarah Elsworth put forward powerful performances and Clark could allow their duets to really flourish by minimising some of her solos. Home video footage is a little self-indulgent, and how her performers tend to react to her rather than vice versa. This self-indulgence though, gives the audience a deeper understanding of Clark's questioning, the awkwardness one feels when making friends, fitting in.
Here lies the beauty of this piece, that the audience can find a bit of themselves within this awkward character. It is not simply a young person entering the world and figuring out their place, it is any of those moments where we are figuring out how to be normal within a greater context.
This theatrical choreography has choreography in it too – movement-wise the highlight occurs early on with the three bodies in a vertical line facing the back. Moody one-sided side lighting ripples over almost bare backs that indulge in twisting necks and spiraling spines. Hands push over faces and arms as if asking “What is my body?” Audio that haunts and hums, the vocals of Flo Wilson reaching out and grabbing the audience. Emi Pogoni's composition of street sounds and typewriter-esque bings are a perfect marriage with this work.
Dance walking should be outlawed in this work – walking that is so carefully considered that it becomes effected and distracting.
Various movement phrases throughout use known (and somewhat tired) contemporary dance vocabulary but the execution is what is important. There is desperation: grab hold flick stare, throw catch push hold. There is frustration: hair twisting, abusive partnering (but strangely with equal power shifts). There is dance ranting: constant (and over-used) dynamic of quick, precise power to pause and stand, trapped head between knees, hunching over chairs, wrists flicking, standing, staring, McIntyre the most compelling blank stare. A clear beginning middle and end within the narrative, with movement motifs that do not seem to cross over, which is a shame.
A weighty work, with clearly articulated ideas and desperate dance.
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Raewyn Whyte (NZ Herald);