Wednesday 13 March 2019

The Perception Experiment - Dance Review

What: The Perception Experiment
When: 12 - 16 March 2019
Where: Rehearsal Room, Arts House
Choreographed by: Madeleine Krenek and Frankie Snowdon
Performed by:  Kelly Beneforti, Madeleine Krenek, Tara Samaya, and Frankie Snowdon,
Costumes by: Frankie Snowdon and Liz Verstappen
Lighting by: Jenny Hector
Sound by: Darcy Davis
Kelly Beneforti, Madeleine Krenek, Tara Samaya, and Frankie Snowden - photo by Pippa Samaya
Dance is the movement of the body in space and time, usually rhythmically (or deliberately arhythmically) and mostly accompanied by sound of some sort. It bypasses oral language to work directly as sensorial stimulus on the brain. This is what GUTS dance bring us in the unspeakably entrancing The Perception Experiment playing at Arts House this week as part of Dance Massive.

In creating The Perception Experiment Krenek and Snowdon ask us to put aside the ego and engage fully with our id. They want us to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste their journey into the heartland of Australia - the desert, the salt lakes, the vast scope of time...

To give up the ego and super-ego is a scary thing - they are the mechanisms which maintain our sense of self and allow us to analyse our world, make sense of it, and keep ourselves safe. The team understand this, and whilst it may create a frisson of hesitation to take off your shoes (I recommend slip ons) and step into pitch black space full of disorienting sound there is nothing to fear. Each person is gently and carefully guided to a spot in the room like a dear friend who is more precious than cut crystal glassware.

The whole show (experience?) is like this. It is inclusive, nurturing, beautiful, and surprisingly safe despite the excitation of all the senses. From the familiars who brush across your feet in the darkness, to the complex and compelling sounds created by Davis which pulse and reverberate through the body, there is great affect without stimulating flight or fight.

Just as we are asked to give up our own sense of self, so do the dancers. When the lights do come up and we are allowed to sit, four faceless grains of salt weft and weave together in the stream of salt pouring from a funnel. This is the moment of their birth and also the moment of the birth of the desert.

The Perception Experiment is something of a creation myth. The grains fly and undulate from their nexus to inhabit the space. They fly and whirl and twist and turn. Dunes are created and then flattened and then created again. We are seated in traverse and having given up our selves as individuals we become a part of the living landscape which looks so barren yet teams with life and connection.

Every moment in The Perception Experiment is absolute beauty. The dance is full of beautiful shapes and shifts, and the music/sound is textured and elemental. Hector's lighting moves with the dancers, revealing, expanding, contracting, all of it designed to breathe with us, live with us.

For me the greatest moment comes when the art (dance) creates art (visual). If the first act of the performance is a creation myth about the land, the second half is a creation myth about connection - although ironically, it is the part of the dance when the dancers become disconnected from each other.

In act 2 Krenek stands alone with two funnels of salt and spins and spins and spins. As she turns, the salt flies in rings around her. The smell teases our nostrils as fine particles tantalise our tongues. Krenek's ability to spin on the spot for so very, very, very long seems almost supernatural and had me thinking about whirling dervishes and the creation of connection to divinity.

Eventually the other three rejoin her and together they dance across the stage strewn with salt. They leave imprints in the salt just as we leave imprints on the earth. The question becomes are you creating beauty in your wake, or destruction? The Perception Experiment ends with beauty but as the audience leave, despite a lot of trying, as they walk across the salt, the picture is defiled. Nothing is forever...

Some people say art must be beautiful. Some people say art must say something, do something, mean something. Some people say art must create change. The Perception Experiment does all of this whilst at the same time being caring and respectful of us all. It is only on for a few days so do make sure you catch it while you can.

4.5 Stars

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