Contemporary dance mixes with ancient ritual in Chunky Move’s double-header Next Move 11.
The first work, titled “Nether”, is directed, choreographed and performed by Lauren Langlois. She shares the stage with James Vu Ahn Pham, who collaborated on the choreography. “Nether” has an otherworldly feel. It’s a fusion of light, music and movements that are on occasions fluid and at other times robotic.
The cascading beams of light from a single source against a jet-black stage make quite an impression in the opening minutes, before the two dancers appear. During their routine, my emotional reaction to the performance varied as the mood shifted. My sensory perception was heightened by the sights and sounds. As Vu Ahn Pham in particular stepped in and out of the light, I felt like he was moving from one realm to another.
After interval, an effusive Joel Bray steps up to the microphone. Around him are bundles of black balloons. There’s also a teapot and other tea-making accoutrements. Their dual purpose will be cleverly revealed in time. Bray, who has developed and choreographs “Dharawungara”. As he performs it, he encourages the audience to repeat a number of indigenous words.
Stripping to his underwear, he proceeds to paint himself (with a little help from an audience member) and reenact a sacred ritual, complete with a fire prop and smoke machine. He is flexible and contorted, moving about the whole stage, channeling the wood duck, the possum and the echidna. But before that, with the help of sound artist Naretha Williams, his body becomes a canvas for the past. Bray is quite the showman, skillfully moving between levity, respect and outrage.
The first act runs for half an hour and the second for about 35 minutes. Next Move 11 is playing at 111 Sturt Street, Southbank until 17 November 2018.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.