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Flash Review 1, 8-23:
DV8's New Dance Still in Trials
By Carol Dilley
Copyright 2000 Carol Dilley
SYDNEY, Australia --
The Olympic Arts Festival kicked off with a weekend of high-profile
events. The biggest draw was a colossal production of a Mahler symphony
at the new Olympic Superdome, which filled the house nicely. Much
further down the scale of Olympic events was the new work commissioned
by the festival, "The Cost of Living," by Lloyd Newson, the director
of Britain-based DV8. However, even the much-heralded return of
a prodigal son was not a sufficient draw and tickets were already
being discounted before opening night.
Newson is Australian,
though he has made his name in London with an impressive body of
impactful, socially relevant physical theater works which are, in
my humble opinion, as good as it gets in contemporary dance today.
This new work, however, is not one of his best. It was originally
commissioned for Lunar Park, an amusement park on the harbor right
across from the opera house. Due to structural safety problems at
the site, however, it was re-assigned last March to a regular theater,
thus rendering the remaining whispers of amusement park imagery
woefully out of context.
The most obvious remnant
of the Luna Park days, apart from the dancers in clownsuits in the
opening scene, are the allusions to "freaks." The presence of much
touted non-conventional dancers, marginalized within the dance world
as within society in general, promised to make this piece thought-provoking
at the very least.
The legless dancer, David
Toole, was fully integrated into the performance as a complex and
independent character. Dancing on his hands rather than his feet,
he performs some lovely sections with other dancers, as well as
participating in some more typical DV8 scenes in which confrontational
questions are raised. The audience grapples with juxtaposition of
human dignity and Toole's extreme physical disability as he makes
his way among the very leggy wonder-bodies who share his space.
The other two unconventional
dancers, however, were as marginal within the piece as the social
outcasts they are meant to represent. 73-year-old DV8 regular Payne-Meyer
flits onto the stage from time to time and Lawrence Goldhuber, former
member of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane company and co-director of
Goldhuber & Latsky, has only a silly gestural
segment that belies the fact that he too is a trained dancer, not
just a fat man. These two token oddities seem to remain in the cast
solely for press purposes, as much fuss has been made about the
daring use of non-standard dancers. While Toole is integrated into
the piece, the presence of Payne-Meyer and Goldhuber is completely
undeveloped and indicative of the general lack of direction of the
"The Cost of Living"
(formerly titled Funnyland, Wasted, and Can We Afford This) reflects
the adverse conditions in which it was created. Even large sums
of money, a dynamic director, the pick of international dancers
and a sympathetic media could not remedy the wandering lack of purpose.
It seems that Newson was unable to salvage a coherent piece from
the chaos of the circumstances and "The Cost of Living comes off
as more of a showcase of ideas than a completed theatrical event.
In the difficult world
of creation upon demand, it is easy to understand how it happened.
There was too much money, too many ideas, too much bureaucracy and
not enough time to clean up the mess, for creation is a messy business.
The shame is in the wasted opportunity to bring an engaging and
meaningful piece of physical theater to a more mainstream Olympic
audience. Instead of the usual riveting theater we have come to
expect from Lloyd Newson, The Cost of Living remains a work in progress,
still toothless and vague. We can only hope that he will downsize
and rework the piece before it goes on tour, in which case, it may
actually be worth seeing a few months down the line.
Carol Dilley danced in
the New York downtown dance scene for ten years before moving to
Barcelona, Spain. During her eight years in Barcelona, she collaborated
with various local choreographers as well as forming her own company,
which won the Ricard Moragues Choreographic award. Currently she
is completing an MFA at the University of Washington in Seattle.
She has been dancing for over 30 years and is enjoying an international
career as a performer, choreographer, director, teacher and now
once again, as a student.
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