STRUT Dance have programmed five days and nights of free activities and performances under the collective title: ‘Perth Moves’. The program includes meditation and yoga sessions, dance classes (Afro-Fusion, Hip Hop, Latin Social, House and contemporary dance are all covered, as well as classes for beginners and older or less experienced movers like yours truly), dance battles, late night DJ sets, open-access cast warmups, and free performances twice nightly of Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s 10 Duets on a Theme of Rescue. Appropriately for this year’s Festival theme of Djinda (stars), it all takes place under the night sky, and is a shining example of what a Festival can deliver to enliven a community.
STRUT has been running workshops with Pite’s company Kidd Pivot over the past five years, and now long-term Pite collaborator and Kidd Pivot member Cindy Welik-Salgado is staging 10 Duets with a team of ten local, interstate and New Zealand dancers. The work was originally made for Cedar Lake in New York in 2008, and is performed by five dancers who take turns to inhabit the duets in a series of continuously and seamlessly shifting and changing partnerships (I’m assuming the ten STRUT dancers alternate in a similar fashion between the two performances each night).
The physical and emotional gravity and pace of the work also shifts and changes, but the mood is predominantly dark, even melancholy. It’s also intimate, tender and full of unresolved conflict. This mood requires a sense of deep interiority as well as physical strength, lightness and dexterity on the part of the dancers, who effectively become actors as well, albeit silent ones – a silence that only enhances the sense of universal sadness that pervades their fleeting exchanges.
This mood of intimacy is supported by the elegantly minimalist costumes – designed by Linda Chow and realised for this production by Nicole Marrington – and the even more minimalist set and lighting. The dancers wear comfortable and non-gender-specific clothing in soft colours, including socks rather than bare feet or shoes, all of which adds to the sense of universality and domesticity. It’s as if we’re in series of rooms, even though there’s no furniture or carpeting – an effect that’s ironically heightened by staging the work outdoors.
Lighting is provided by ten floodlights on stands which are initially positioned in an arc on the floor upstage and are then moved around peripherally by the dancers as a part of the choreography while fading up or down (these lights are discreetly augmented by overheads on the balconies of the Courtyard that become barely noticeable once the work begins). The effect is subtle, discreet, and once again adds to the sense of shifting and changing moods and configurations.
The overall sense of melancholy is underscored by the use of ambient music by Cliff Martinez from the soundtrack to the film Solaris (the Stephen Soderberg version, not the Tarkovsky), with its mournful sheen of synthesized strings and soft tuned percussion, which adds another layer of continuity to the work, gently takes us ‘elsewhere’ than the Courtyard, and inside the heads and bodies of the dancers.
Pite is interested in the physical and emotional connections and disconnections between as well as within human beings. The dancers’ movements, gestures, and postures – pushing, pulling, grasping, hugging, holding, releasing, falling, rising, standing, walking, crawling and even sitting at the edge of the stage with their backs to us – express a vast range of unnamed possible scenarios involving physical or emotional rescue as well as loss, its inevitable counterpart. In fact this overarching ‘duet’ between rescue and loss is arguably the theme of the entire work.
Ten Duets lasts for about fifteen minutes but has more content and coherence than most hour-long dance shows. See it if you can.