Thursday 14 March 2019

The Difficult Comedown - Dance Review

What: The Difficult Comedown
When: 12 - 16 March 2019
Where: Meat Market
Created and Performed by: Alexandra Harrison and Paea Leach
Design by: Anna Tregloan
Lighting by: Bosco Shaw
Sound by: Marco Cher-Gibard
Paea Leach and Alexandra Harrison - photo by Pippa Samaya
Dance is such a broad concept, and this is what makes it such a flexible and innovative art form - particularly in Australia. Leach and Harrison stretch the concept to breaking point in The Difficult Comedown playing at the Meat Market this week.

I say this pair of creators stretch the dance form because they are working with very slow dramaturgies and Leach, in particular (and as a result of some serious injuries in the past), explores regenerative work and exploring the kinetic energies underlying movement more so than the movement itself. As such, The Difficult Comedown is focused on balance and counterpoint, the two dancers supporting and encouraging and leaning and lifting each other as they meander around the stage. It was almost more of a slowed acrobatics display than what we might traditionally consider dance.

As comes with most modern dance work, the program has some highfalutin descriptions which talk about exploring a post-anthropocene epoch and moving to a time beyond human dominance but to be honest I didn't get any of that. It seemed very much about humans and humanity to me so I didn't get it and I am sorry if I missed something important.  It took me a while but I did link Tregloan's stunning line of white arches down the center of the roof as a reference to bones...

On the other hand, the program also talks about two women 'who don't have to take care of each other  but they do'. This comes through the work very strongly. The show begins with Leach and Harrison taking turns in carrying each other and the work continues in this mode of them working in sync and helping out when they can - from being the stabilising opposing force in a lean to Harrison preparing Leach's costume change whilst she is busy doing something performative.  I found myself thinking about the Hockey concept of lifters and leaners and I really enjoyed the commentary in this work that everyone is a lifter and a leaner and that is how we all move forward... together!

Leach has expanded her practice to include writing and whilst there was not a lot of intelligible language per se, Cher-Gibard's amazing sound track included movements which worked with unintelligible vocalisations somewhat in the style of work done by Ros Warby. And let's talk about the soundtrack. Cher-Gibard has created a work which is primal and elemental. He processes urban sounds to create jungle atmosphere. Perhaps this is the Anthropocene aspect of the work?

For me the problem with The Difficult Comedown is it feels like experimentation which should never have had a performance outcome. I like the explorations but they just don't seem to come together in a cohesive whole. The transitions are clunky and overt and I have no idea what the costumes are about, from start to finish. And there is the ball... And there is the black plastic flutter... I just don't know and because I couldn't make meaning I got bored.

There is some humour in the show. Most if it fell flat because it was hard to connect it to what was happening. One great moment of genius, though is right at the end when the women play a word game which ends suddenly and had me guffawing loudly at the outrageousness and perfect execution of the moment. A great way to end what was not the most satisfying experience of dance.

Pro Tip: Wear slip on shoes because you will be asked to take your shoes off to walk across the dance floor.

1.5 Stars

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