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Flash Review 1, 8-23: Olympic Dances
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 work.

"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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