5 Min Read

A State of Flux: Equations of a Falling Body

Laura Boynes’ Equations of a Falling Body challenges its dancers and audiences to embrace the unexpected while increasing awareness of our world’s degradation.

The performance throws out predetermined choreography in favour of real-time choreography being fed from Laura to three dancers through earpieces. Sitting to the side of the stage in a soundproof booth, Laura speaks into a microphone only heard by the dancers and uses an iPad to assist her in moving through the performance.

Instead of direction that specifies certain movements, Laura provides the dancers with inspiration based on news headlines from that day or facts. These improvised sequences are set within scenes that hold different tones and pre-decided objectives or points they want to hit; how they achieve these objectives is what changes every performance.

Equations of a Falling Body. Photography by Shotweiler Photography.

The show’s opening image is jaw dropping with James O’Hara’s body suspended above the stage, gradually falling towards a body of water. His body is illuminated with light cast on him by head torches worn by Tim Green and Ella-Rose Trew who circle and spray him with water. Watching James jut and twist his body across the stage is reminiscent of the evolutionary transition of moving from water to land.

We’re suddenly jolted out of this dark and wet world and brought back to the present with the stage flooded with bright artificial light. It’s like we’re in a rehearsal room as the dancers switch out of performing, or the way we expect them to perform, and start to move around the stage like they’re preparing for another performance.

It’s quite a strange and vulnerable feeling watching this as an audience member, it’s as though something has gone wrong and we’re not watching a show anymore. Perhaps that uncomfortable feeling demonstrates what we’ve trained ourselves to believe is and isn’t a performance. Maybe it’s also a reminder of the unpredictable state we exist in.

This pattern between intense sequences of dance which are broken by periods of reset repeats throughout the performance. The scenes sometimes seamlessly meld into one another while at other times they switch abruptly with light and music changing almost spontaneously. Matt Marshall’s lighting design is imperative in distinguishing these different scenes as is Felicity Groom’s and Tristen Parr’s sound design and composition.

I was fearful for the performers at times wondering if they could hear Laura’s instructions or be able to execute what she asks of them. A post show Q&A revealed that they feel comforted by having Laura’s voice guiding them through the performance, implying a great level of trust. Impressively the dancers also can’t hear much of the music due to the earpieces they wear, but I certainly was unable to tell that while watching them perform.  

Equations of a Falling Body. Photography by Shotweiler Photography.

What’s special about this work are the striking and varied images that are made by each of the performers. As mentioned, we start with the vision of James descending towards the ground, but some other highlights include Tim standing on the front of large fan appearing like the Vitruvian Man and Ella-Rose gently tumbling through a silver tunnel. The use of head torches during some scenes creates shadows which consume the studio underground’s walls in quite a spectacular way.

There’s a steady stream of unexpected humour throughout the show too, sometimes prompted by the movement but other times by the dancer’s communication with one another. Some of these interactions seem to mock the pompous nature of dance, which is initially funny but then dissolves into a reflection of some of the industry’s exploitative tendencies. The work follows this state of flux, moving between the dark and light themes, never dwelling for too long but the change in tone is always notable.

Equations of a Falling Body. Photography by Ella Fishwick

The theme of climate change is perhaps the most evident throughout the work with the incorporation of the four elements, water, earth, wind, and fire. The pool and spray bottles providing water, earth appearing as a long strip of astro turf, wind provided through fans and fire via sparkling pyrotechnics. Most of the time these tools and materials are used separately but during one scene they become combined to create a mini landscape fit with a cloud made from a smoke machine which slowly ascends into the ceiling.

The increasingly crowded stage acted as another connection to the theme of our climate and environment. Each scene saw new items brought onto the stage but also saw the expansion of the space with the stage wings becoming exposed and cluttered with objects.

This feeling of overconsumption and waste ties into the show’s parting vision which reveals the back of the stage strewn with rubbish. It’s a beautifully tragic image of a landfill created by set designer Bruce McKinven. I’d be interested to see how the concept of live chorography could be executed with less items and props, but I understand this would take away from the connection to excessive consumption and waste.

Equations of a Falling Body defies the norms and rules of dance. It may challenge and confuse you at times but, if you allow it, you’ll no doubt find great reward and enjoyment from it too.

Presented by Perth Festival Equations of a Falling Body is on now through to Sunday Feb 26.