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Flash Review, 8-2: Chunky Move
Attempts at Defining a Possible Ideology of Surface

By Simone Clifford
Copyright 2000 Simone Clifford

MELBOURNE, Victoria, Australia -- Chunky Move last night premiered its newest work "Hydra" at the National Theatre St. Kilda, a glorious theatre of old-scale proportions and perfect sight-lines. The audience was comprised largely of under-30-year-olds, making this company a voice for the young adult.

"Hydra," choreographed by artistic director Gideon Orbarzanek, offered us an attempt at defining a possible ideology of surface. Orbarzanek tells us that this work is "concerned more with the emotional landscape than form and structure and is loosely inspired by the Greek myth of the same name. 'Hydra' immerses its audience in a dual world of seduction and devastation."

The movement vocabulary used gives the impression of bodies bound, somehow emotionally gagged; restriction is of the essence here. We see that these well-trained dancers capable both technically and dramatically offer a commitment and integrity to the work. However, I look at style as a collision of form with essence, which may suggest some deficit in this regard.

Yet, if an artist speaks for an audience of his/her time, we must acknowledge the appeal of this work to a zeitgeist (spirit of the time) with few references to the historical development of the form.

This work, with its thoughtfully constructed design, does make for visual impact, using water and wetsuit-clad females as the many-headed feminine water monster writhing in the water, splashing it about to effect with the striking lighting design. The collaborators for "Hydra" were composers Darrin Verhagen and James Gordon-Anderson, production designers Andrew Livingston and Ben Cobham of Bluebottle, and costume designer Mila Faranov.

Verhagen's electronic score provided the work with a soundscape that offered tension and conflict. The soundscape is, in effect, a parameter of substance and gravity. Cleverly melding sounds and effects such as the submarine radar pulse that evokes humans underwater, it was nonetheless sufficiently subtle enough for us to keep our attention on the work, with its dramatic dialogue. The dance, clearly seen as two parts though presented as an evening-length hour-long piece, was given a very different musical treatment by Gordon-Anderson for its second half. Heavily miked piano and violin played live assumed the fabric of catharsis for the piece.

In the balletic atmosphere of the present, an argument may be developing regarding possible readings. Distilled, it is one between metaphor and pantomime this work may surrender to.

We understand that Chunky Move is Victoria's eminent contemporary dance company; funded on both the state and federal levels, this is a full time troupe. Production standards are always given a high priority. This, along with Orbarzanek 's choreography and strong use of direction, combined with well-trained dancers, makes this an easy-going company to watch.


Simone Clifford is a freelance choreographer and former dancer with Nederlands Dans Theater.

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