‘Voyage’ Reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by December 13, 2013

‘Voyage. The Poetics of Embodiment’, is a 60-minute, energy packed spectacular of contemporary dance, devised and directed by Salmiyah Fiedorowicz. Salmiyah is a Murdoch University PhD student who has studied the integration of body and mind.

This performance is being presented by Murdoch University in the Drama Workshop, off car park 4, Murdoch University, South Street, Murdoch; with performances officially starting at 7.00 pm each evening until Saturday 14th December.  There is also a 2.00 pm matinee on Saturday the 14th. I say ‘officially’ because the performers start their warm-up about twenty minutes before ‘curtain up’ and this is certainly worth seeing.

 

The lighting is very dim over the large black-painted floor space. The rear wall consists of black drapes. To the left and right of the stage are two massive projection screens (approx. 50 sq. metres each).

 

         On the floor are six dancers (Amy Murray, Anna Weir, Bethsaida Tapsall, Hayley Lyons, Rhianna Hall and Salmiyah), dressed in a white leotard, shorts and a tank top. In total silence, the group are doing yoga exercises such as the Sun Salutation followed by breathing exercises. Slowly they start gliding and sliding around the floor, loosening their neck muscles and then their torsos. Lit only by the screens, one showing a journey through space, the other is a live projection of the handheld camerawork by Steph Davenport.

       The movement continues as the recorded and live music creeps into the background. Piano music with plenty of echo starts, and slowly this develops into a more definite rhythm with more percussion. Soon the dancers are moving energetically around the stage, the lights go off and the whole stage is in darkness.

      One of the screens backlights to show a silhouette of a woman dancing, the six dancers start moving slowly as the mysterious dancer (Monica Gagliano) appears shaking wind chime pipes. Soon there is a red glow and the dancers can be seen going through a series of emotions. Starting with tired depression, the mood gradually swings to happiness and elation. The wonderful live music played by Monnie Gagliano and incorporates the sound of tree branches, a sitar and a Shruti Box. Just as the group become carefree, tragedy strikes. You are invited onto the stage to join the dancers in coping with the tragedy (no embarrassment in joining them). Then a procession leads us through to the Studio Theatre area where we re-take our seats.

       A large swimming pool covers the floor of the theatre, and the smell of chlorine fills the air. The dancers now dressed in only their leotards and muslin skirts walk into the ‘sea’. They become totally submerged. Lights dance on the top of the water as a mix of xylophone and vibraphone play gently in the background. Night falls and the water becomes dark, the dancers are now dancing synchronised. The music becomes threatening before dawn rises. These water nymphs continue their underwater prayers and dancing and discover the power of hydro cleansing.

 

Forget movie swimming star, Esther Williams (‘wet she is a star, dry she ain’t’) and Busby Berkeley’s renowned piece, ‘By a Waterfall’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csG6MBYsmOU), this is live and the real thing 80 years later. Salmiyah and assistant director, Scott McArdle have produced a memorable, original production. The dancers made the whole routine look so simple, when they must have been hurting inside.

Set designer, Ally Snell has joined with stage managers Danica Rickard and John King to give us massive projection screens and a large swimming pool – it must have been a nightmare in the making. Along with Scott McArdle and Tim Brain’s lighting (operated by Daley King) which depicted magical patterns on the surface of the water, along with surrounding ripple effects to give the feeling of being deep under the water with the nymphs, the overall result was wonderful. The cool water must have been most welcome at the end of the gruelling dance routine.

The music played a major part in the mood of the production and Aiden Willoughby and Monica Gagliano both excelled.

A fresh and beautifully performed show. My apologies if my interpretation of the dance routine isn’t quite right, but that is the excitement of contemporary dance, like jazz the interpretation is in the beholder. Another triumphant show from Murdoch.