Bearded princess wears the crown
PERHAPS L. Ron Hubbard was right and science fiction is the destiny of religion.
This trio of substantial short works, presented as part of Chunky Move’s Next Move program, quickly dispenses with conventional religion (the lines of birds by Paea Leach), then technological utopianism (Fountain by Atlanta Eke), and leaves us with an extraterrestrial messiah (Princess by Benjamin Hancock).
Leach takes religious iconography (Pieta, for example) and the gestures of observance — the outstretched arms of priestly blessing, an abstracted sign of the cross,
the clasped fingers of prayer and so on — and makes a dance for god.
Indeed, you’d need to be omnipresent to actually see more than a third of the piece. It begins before the audience is in place and a substantial proportion is performed either in the dark, out of range or out of sight to one seating bank or the other.
Though Leach performs the piece with Michaela Pegum and Gregory Lorenzutti — two dynamic and exceptionally beautiful dancers — the lines of birds is unfocused and oddly banal. The choreography struggles to hold our attention.
In stark contrast, Eke’s Fountain uses the mystery and grotesquerie of Frankenstein science (think deformed fetuses and jars of formaldehyde) to make her point. Or, rather, to ask her questions; to think aloud.
But, as in Leach’s work, there’s plenty happening out of sight. More of a conceptual artist than dance maker, Eke tells us that her work is 220 minutes, divvied up into 11 20-minute instalments. We have to infer what has come before and imagine what will follow.
In this evening-long stalemate between church and laboratory, Benjamin Hancock crowns himself in the ironically titled Princess. With kinked thumbs opposed to little fingers, he places a figurative crown on his head. He’s a human maypole, streamers attached; a spinning top; and he holds his centre with brash assurance. Self-belief seems to hold him upright rather than mere skill. His balance is so canny, he introduces a wobble — a wild, off-centre twirl — to show off his ability to re-find his centre. His robotic economy of movement gives way to something dervish-like.
Intriguingly, Hancock isn’t entertaining the masses; it’s absolutely apparent that he’s leading them, like some extraterrestrial Evita.
Just as Christianity adopted and adapted the rituals and festivals of the pagan world, Hancock’s bearded princess steals back the Promethean fire.
Tickets: $30. Bookings: trybooking.com. Duration: 100min, including interval. Season ends June 29.