Review by Lia Cox
I like to walk into shows impartial – I don’t do any research before, so I allow my natural appreciations and instincts to react.
It has been a while since I’ve seen a true dance theatre work – and Bodylex did not disappoint.
Produced and choreographed by creative academic, Rhys Ryan, Bodylex explores rules, regulations and laws and how our bodies respond to these forces either unintentionally or consciously.
Questions are posed – do we resist? Conform? Adapt? This piece of experimental theatre is designed to provoke, engage processing of politics pursue examinations of the physical form.
Upon entering the hazy black box of The Bakehouse, of which I’ll be extremely sad to see gone, the stage is set starkly with three dancers in simple, muted tone pants and singlet.
Two side lights illuminate the space, and we hear the sound of a repetitive and pulsing clap or wood knocking together – this is the heartbeat of the soundscape that gets built upon as the tensions rise.
The movement of the dancers – Anika de Ruyter, Piaera Lauritz and Emma Riches – is pedestrian, slow, controlled and precise. I perceive inspiration taken from contemporary greats Cunningham and Graham in the stillness and shape of the movements. This creats such anticipation of the coming movement.
At this point, and it is quite early in the piece, the repetitive clapping or knocking became quite meditative for me. Resetting my state and natural rhythm much like a metronome would.
The first section, if you will, was animalistic and emergent, with two of the dancers coming together then separating in a fluid and embryonic pathway. It was beautiful to watch.
We move into the next section, this time using a giant light beam to guide and create a partition between the space – that above and below the beam.
The dancers move, transport and passage the beam around, over, under and across their bodies, making incredible shapes and shadows as they become one with the light. They have total control of this massive shaft – and I never felt they would flounder.
Ingenious lighting design from John Collopy – kudos.
At this point in the piece, the soundscape, expertly designed by Robert Downie, becomes louder, faster and more high pitched as two of the dancers are almost fighting with the light, while the other is twirling the beam, cutting the space in half.
This leads to the next progression – and my most favourite – when a dancer is blindfolded and pushed and pulled where her movement is instigated by the forces of the other dancers. Once her blindfold is removed, the next sequence had incredible motifs of movement that developed and adapted to the change of the sounds.
Next is where voice cues from Zoe Boesen, stating laws around the country relating to violence, marriage and work, were beamed from above, while the dancers took turns in pointing the microphone to differing but related body parts to the text that was spoken.
This became more manic, where the voices were re-mixed over each other, a pulse line was established and the motif movement returned with slight variations and speed – a more frenetic and chaotic trio, which culminates in a dancer spinning with the beam above her head to a blackout.
I loved the development of this work from prosaic to hectic, controlled and deliberate to fraught and disorderly – all responses and behaviours to the bigger questions of law.
The triple layer of movement, sound and lighting rippled through your body from start to finish.
Brilliant, inspiring and political.