Dance work struggles with individual versus group expression
Dismantling the theatre.Credit:Pippa Samaya
PUBLIC ACTIONS ★★★½
Luke George and Collaborators
Arts House, North Melbourne, March 12-16
For some years now, choreographer Luke George has been examining participation. He has framed it through a variety of (sometimes contradictory) theoretical positions, from visual art's "relational aesthetics" to, more recently, literary scholar Andrew Hewitt's "social choreography".
Dance-wise, on the other hand, it has been a relatively straightforward exploration of power dynamics between performer and spectator, of the ethics of care, and with an almost utopian impulse to design safe, accepting spaces, in which a temporary community can emerge.
In the first of three parts, Public Actions sees the traditional theatrical space set up only to be disrupted. The audience faces a video of another audience as dancers emerge in the seating bank among them, and tumble down in slow motion, carrying along seats and dislodging the spectators.
By the time the avalanche of bodies reaches the floor, there is no theatre left – only a situation.
The work explores both public participation and individual expression.Credit:Pippa Samaya
Part two brings audience members in as increasingly active decision-makers, while the final part invites the audiences to examine the documenting materials for the project.
Public Actions is playful and delightful, with the final group tableau resembling a Renaissance painting of public life in the ideal city. But it is less than the sum of its parts.
George struggles to articulate the purpose for which we should gather, stringing the show between collectivity and individualism by trying to create a space for complete self-expression, but cloaked in the language of social action.
This may seem like a subtle distinction; it is not. There are historical vocabularies to how bodies meet in public space: the sit-in, the march, the circle, the stand-off, the party, the riot. George seems unaware of them.
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