|Direction/choreography and visual
|Lighting and visual
design and coordination:
| Costume concept:
The starting points for this piece are the ideas of
change and of changing. Surrounding these ideas thoughts
immediately emerge: of leaving the past and the familiar,
a reluctance to explore the new and the impact of a
changing world to one's own experience and perspective's.
Although not a narrative, the piece is a journey both
personal and artistic. In the piece I have incorporated
a sense of the history of Western Art, work that has
challenged and informed the way we see, think and feel.
Art has a profound impact on the way we see the world
and ourselves. There are seminal, iconic artists who
have opened the floodgates of change and have questioned
everything that has gone before. Over the years I have
seen and have been moved, excited and frustrated by
much music, theatre, literature, cinema, dance and visual
art. All have made me think about where I am and where
I am going.
The movement in the piece is an analogy of these ideas;
they merge and at times collide with the images and
music. I have attempted to create a sense of travel
and exploration. A journey that is constantly rebuilt,
renewed and evolving.
A dance of leaving
Linda Marie Walker
be/leaving past/present by John Utans, is quite terrific.
Take 20 minutes off it and it would be outstanding-tight
and engrossing. Solos are not necessary, for example-it's
more 'electronica' than jazz as a form. And that is
The grammar of the dance is familiar; everyone lined
up against the side walls, waiting, on show, actors.
I still like this, it means your eyes are peeled and
you must skim across the overall surface from time to
time. You have to take in the 'scene.' And here it means
projections, an intriguing and eclectic soundtrack,
lighting that is part of the performance, 'the set'
of old-fashioned 'school slide-screens', and the combinations
(and narratives) of the dancers (a group of richly differing
shapes; only 2 males among the cast of 18, and they
and one woman took off their clothes and offered their
The work is about leaving. Yet for me it was about
'arriving'-as leaving can only come about from arriving.
And arrivals were occurring over and over; everyone
seemed always to want to arrive.
Throughout the performance there is imagery projected:
artworks and artists; especially, for me, Picasso, Warhol
and Duchamp (heady references; and ones I didn't care
for in the context-was it catering to another sensibility-I
don't care, these are serious touchstones), as well
as other iconic historical (renaissance) works. A scene
from an interview with Warhol is featured, he's sitting
in front of the Elvis work. The whole piece begins with
a voiceover about a 'concert' that's about to begin
of John Cage's (perhaps with David Tudor); Utan's references
are wonderfully present though, like bones. They don't
condemn the work, they infiltrate it in their own way
becoming part of the (new) work -as if they, in the
case of Cage, are existing sound, and in the case of
Duchamp, are ready-mades, and in the case of Picasso,
are all fractured and seen-at-once.
The work is like a moving visual art installation,
it has this quality, which is impossible in the gallery.
I-did-not-like: the quotes from Matisse and others (too
overstated). I-did-like: the text, not from the 'masters',
that appeared on the back wall: "rain falls/ and
at night/ he whispers to me/ all is lost/ by the sea/
they danced into the night/ the rain falls..."
I had a sudden flash with the text and the dancers'
despair (as if children) of Doris Lessing's Memoirs
Of A Survivor. It's the small things: "There came
a day when Emily walked across the street and added
herself to the crowd there, as if it were quite easy
for her to do this" (Lessing, Picador, 1980). She
There is the hope and feverish work of being young,
and of coming suddenly into the light, as one 'character'
does; she sensuously works her way along a wall, never
moving out of the light, until she walks off, leaving
the light behind. But she had arrived first, she plays
in the light, she is 'become' by the light. She's not
innocent. Throughout there is this lack of innocence.
You cannot use these iconic art references, this assured
lighting, this soundscape, without already knowing the
horror of being awake. And there lies the strangeness
of the work. It takes a while to 'awake' to it, but
it comes like a storm: this is delicate dance. The dancers'
bare feet touch the ground in a strange way. It is not
hesitance, it's as if they 'care' about, or worry for,
something. This causes a slight imprecision, but also
a kind of mercy or humaneness. They are not machines,
they do not do perfect. But their feet are my concern
here, something about their feet, their just behind-the-beatness.
A degree of fear. A sense that arrival and departure
is tentative-and fleeting and final.
I suppose I haven't created a 'mental-picture' of this
work. It's a student-performed work, but it functions
outside this category. It's a bit like the projected
Warhol interview-it's a sophisticated innocence, but
in this case the innocence is of another order-genuine
and life-full. It's a complex work-almost like watching
a movie-it assumes a lot about its audience in terms
of art history (but that's a good thing, and that's
why I disliked the didactic quotes); its form (dance-theatre-visual
art-movie-sound) is a wonderful one; a multi-textural
work that worked (in the best sense of 'worked'-a work
be/leaving past/present, John Utans, performers,
Adelaide Institute of TAFE,
July 2, 2003.
This review originally appeared in RealTime 56 (www.realtimearts.net)
and is reproduced with the permission of the author
and the publisher.