One of the things I love about contemporary dance is the polarity of feeling you can experience while watching it. Sometimes, it invokes a deep sense of anxiety in me, while other times I am overwhelmed by the metaphor and beauty it contains. The clever pairing of these two starkly different works means we are taken on a rollercoaster of emotion and reflection of the works, the dancers and our own place in the world.
The show opens with ‘Explorer’ by Rebecca Jensen, an inquiry into the material world in relation to a rapidly shifting digital realm. It open to rough outlines of people beneath sheets of white, until our main character enters with a leaf blower, shattering the peaceful lull in the theatre and marking the beginning of our journey.
The show centres largely around disruption and discomfort, there is a building soundscape that peaks in shrill and panicky noise while our principal dancers explores her surroundings.
It is juxtaposed with beautifully placed partner/acrobatic work, and we explore her sense of weightlessness and shifting horizons as she defies the laws of gravity and dances up and around the walls of the set.
The cast play with sound, dragging objects and Styrofoam across the stage, creating the kind of noise that makes your teeth hurt and while at times we are uncomfortable, you only need to look around the room to see we are all invested.
The movement is strong, and the stark surroundings make it all the more beautiful when we reach the end of the performance, as she makes her way towards the sun.
We are given a brief intermission to process the first act, and the crowd is buzzing with chatter about what it meant, how it made them feel, and their reflections on the performance.
When we return it is time to see Sarah Aiken ‘Tools for personal expansion’ a study into social, digital and physical means of exploring the self. The performance begins with our dancers entering wearing the same costume in various gradients, mirroring each others moves with slight delay, and it appears to the audience we are watching an echo in motion.
There is a mic creating vocal loops out of our principal dancers name, one by one they loop their own speaking of ‘Sarah Aiken’ building the sound with these two words. The microphone is then passed into the audience and we are invited to participate by adding our own loop of ‘Sarah Aiken’ while we watch the dance unfolding in front of us.
Everyone will always take something different from any performance, but for me I found a beautiful representation of the different selves we present. There are moments where the audio overlaps, and it is a parallel to the images we present to public of the different parts of our lives and where they intersect, or overlap.
The second half of the show centres around augmentation of reality through the use of an iphone and our dancers, and it is a stunning example of how we use technology to make ourselves into something different, into something larger than life and by the time the performance ends by blurring the reality and the technology, I am grinning widely at the clever way they have explored a reality that we all brush past in our day to day lives.
‘Tools for personal expansion’ is a brilliant and mesmerising work that will leave you thinking and talking for days.
Metro Arts Performance Season // 6 – 9 December 2017 – Presented by Sarah Aiken, Rebecca Jensen & Metro Arts
This work was initially commissioned by Carriageworks, Dancehouse and The Keir Foundation for the Keir Choreographic Award 2016.
Sarah Aiken (Tools For Personal Expansion) |
Concept & Choreography | Sarah Aiken With Collaborators
Performers | Claire Leske, Emily Robinson And Sarah Aiken
Sound Concept, Design & Performance | Daniel Arnott
Lighting Design | Amelia Lever-Davidson
Costume Design & Construction | Sarah And Cary Aiken
Av Design | Robert Jordan And Daniel Arnott
Images | Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse