Response by Nikki Heywood
Happy Hour #8 continues the semi-regular presentation of short works in progress by Sydney based independent dance and performance artists. The series, a welcome and much needed opportunity for experiment with the support of time and space, began in 2016 by Linda Luke and ReadyMade’s founding director Samantha Chester and has a changing curatorial team. This recent program, a part of March Dance, was curated by ReadyMadeWorks’ new steady handed team of caretakers -- Adelina Larsson, Rhiannon Newton and Patricia Wood.
Here is an impression of what happened on 3rd March 2019...
1. Katina Olsen
There are about 40 of us... gathered on the large wooden veranda of the old school building that houses ReadyMade. Rather than entering the building, choreographer Katina Olsen invites us to venture to a different but nearby location, and suggests that we notice the sky above us as we walk out into the world. En masse we compliantly head down the stairs and file into the back streets of Ultimo... a school class on excursion... paying attention to the late summer air on our skin and to the sounds around us.
We touch earth in the small local park... a vibrant green domesticated lawn... and sit to form a large egalitarian circle. We form a circle within an urban square.
Katina’s simple welcome to country is warm and resonant.
She introduces her work as influenced by the lineage and stories of the Waka Waka people of south-eastern Queensland. She invites us to pass around a blue (toothed) tube of recorded sound and lays her body down in the centre of the circle.
She and the ground seem to exhale a unison breath.
Mirroring Olsen’s slow moving limbs, my own sensation of sinking into grass and dirt is heightened... Her attention calls ours ... birds call at high speed...
Over the coming minutes, as she rises, the quickly applied stripes of organic ochre, visibly drying on her bare skin, make playful conversation with the vertical white stripes on her green Adidas trackies.
Her strong delicate arms reach for the sky
tracing a horizontal translation of scudding cloud and temperate air, the shimmering of leaves and flowers of paperbarks
... we are inside a larger circle made by a tall stand of shaggy guardian trees.
They frame us and within that frame Olsen draws our vision from ground to infinite blue above.
The sky lifts her from the ground and the blue tube speaker crackles and settles in transit between watchers in a disrupted yet supportive ambience of synthetic strings. The scenography of cloud and branch and power lines intersects. Neat terrace houses from the Victorian period form an outer skin of vertical scenic flats...
[My watching is inevitably framed by a recent viewing of a documentary on the royal visiting Prince Edward and his entourage in 1920 and their sneering reception of Indigenous peoples and flat denial of their claim of sovereign rights... the properness of the 19th Century architecture exudes a trace of prior prejudice]
I note again the external geometry of grid like streets and its contrast with our imperfect curving human circle. Even here in the centre of the city we can savour the softening whisper of tree and plant. We just have to notice...
Children call across the square... from behind I hear women (talking, laughing) in their houses.
Katina is at full height, not heroic and statuesque... still porous, permeable
Soft padding feet (the sound crackles/ breaks/ recovers)
Her soles caress the council’s well-watered grass... (bells)
Euphoric arms open upward... slow moving turn... turn, turn, and then
She descends to the horizontal plane of earth and the blue tube goes quiet.
There could be more listening to the air, more dancing in parks...
2. Ryuichi Fujimura
We return indoors.
The next performer struts centre-stage to whacky sticky tacky music and strikes a position. He is wearing a shiny tracksuit. Instead of actually dancing he describes an instance of dancing, when the stars aligned and performing solo he had reached that intangible steady state of flow... he knew that he was truly ‘following all [his] impulses’, riding a ‘beautiful wave of energy between [him] and the audience’ and afterwards was rewarded by fawning fans in the foyer... a highpoint in his improvisation history where, basking in his success, even the ‘cheap wine tasted delicious’.
Ryuichi is well known in both the independent dance and the improvised performance scenes and his work in progress makes reference to some of his experiences in those milieu, as a solo performer and as a ‘body for hire’. He goes on to tell of the roller coaster ride of being a jobbing dancer, which entails being at the behest of the whims of an artistic director. We the audience become quickly aware that we are entering the well trodden genre where artists make work about their own work, a territory akin to watching a snake eating its own tail... or perhaps it’s less alchemical and ouroboric and more like watching a frantic dog, chasing its own tail/tale. Which is both funny and pathetic. Fujimura is well aware and in control of the pathos and elaborates with further stories of actual and dreamed success and the less welcome agony of failure and rejection.
Anyone who has performed for any length of time knows those deflating moments of flopping and the subsequent foyer alienation that can occur in the aftermath... where in a state of unknowing and vulnerability there is no warm approach but one can detect ‘a little bit of contempt...’ When the audience seem to know more than you do but they are not telling.
In his second appearance for the night he was able to rehearse a number of the entries and exits he’d never had a chance to perform in a decent ‘big production’.
Finally Fujimura’s ode to failure is celebrated with a wonderfully wry aerobic routine crowned by a dervish turn of self deprecating humour, all danced to a bubble gum version of Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction (I cant get no - no no no) replete with smoke machine and mirror ball...
I am sure he was warmly received this night. With maybe even a longed for gig at an international festival to follow!
3. Murasaki Penguin (Anna Kuroda and David Kirkpatrick)
Another solo figure. Standing, motionless ... Kuroda’s back is to the audience.
Focus flicks between her back and the space in front and behind.
We wait in a long silence. Then the baby in the crowd squirms.
A jet flies overhead.
A currawong’s evening call in the fading light.
Anna steps to the side on a diagonal and, still with her attention transfixed to the wall behind, begins a slow arcing move to the rear.
In a sudden move lands on all fours. Again inert, for a moment I can only see her body as an inanimate object unhooked from any meaning. Until I notice the reflection of her skin on the shiny black floor, creating a fourth dimension... breaking the pool of stasis with economical gestures to rise she walks forward, face still turned, body twisted.
And now, closer, with the slightest of shifts, she faces us. Her face. Somehow bare. Expressionless, as her arms begin light weightless gestures... slowly moving the air around her.
Sensual, controlled, her smooth multi-directional arm motions loop in increasingly larger circles, as though threading silk in a giant loom.
Although nearer now, in intimate proximity, there is a tone of cool distance, as if she dances behind invisible glass. And then I realise that her intensity is not fixed on us, the live watchers, but on the camera in the centre of the audience.
(Is it that much needed documentation of the event is taking precedence?
A question of our looking, her looking and the camera’s looking... is what’s happening here a well-considered triangulation or a reversed hierarchy of the now...? Where the future steals the present and hence the presence?)
At this moment sound artist David Kirkpatrick ambles into view to place a sound device in the upstage corner. When triggered, the recorded railway station announcement ‘please mind the gap’ begins its repeated loop... a kind of stunted Japanese koan, a Zen riddle on high rotation.
Kuroda’s own loops develop to work the distal planes of feet and hands pulled by fine strings... the centre of her body is still while limbs extend toward the corners of the room.
My centre remains still as I contemplate the circling journey of this happy hour
... One artist making a generous offering of air and sky, another’s navel-gazing invitation to laugh and perhaps empathise, to the third’s solipsistic concentration, with the pinhole camera lens as the chief recipient of the artists attention.
Mind the gap indeed.
Nikki Heywood is a Sydney-based interdisciplinary artist working across dance, performance, writing and live art. Nikki’s practice includes devising, direction and choreography as a solo performer, in collective creation and collaboratively generated projects, running skills based workshops for students and emerging practitioners, assisting the creative process of others as a mentor and dramaturg. Co-curator of regular platforms for improvised performance Rushing for the Sloth and Whip It in Sydney for over a decade. As 2005 Recipient of Rex Cramphorn Scholarship (NSW Ministry of the Arts) Nikki undertook research of collaborative performance practice in Europe and Australia and intensive workshop with Goat Island Company of Chicago in Cork, Ireland.
Awarded Doctorate of Creative Arts in practice-based research 2016, thesis title- Undoing Discomfort: being real/becoming other in an embodied performance practice, University of Wollongong, with commendations.