Melbourne Dance Theatre @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio
2:30pm, Sun 6 Mar 2011
So: I’m a teensy bit hungover, and more-than-a-teensy bit tired… not usually the best condition to be in a darkened room when it’s hot outside watching some modern dance pieces set to imagery that danced a fine line between confrontational and melancholic. But, to the Melbourne Dance Theatre’s credit, they managed to present a piece that managed to be both sobering and exciting… try and figure that out.
Mind you, Heroes did not get off to a promising start. While a projector overlaid video of all-too-familiar memories of September 11 over The Studio, the MDT’s group of dancers appeared to group together on the left-hand side of the space, as if the stage was too narrow for the physical expression they’d rehearsed.
But once past that troubled opening, the dance itself was a beautiful exercise in restraint. Largely an ensemble piece, movements were generally slow and sweeping, with the choreography appearing to steer well clear of physical limits – but, in keeping the majority of the dance at a slower pace, a sense of poignancy is evoked.
That poignancy is supported by the overlaid video, which effectively controlled the tone of the performance; slow-motion footage of people stumbling away from Ground Zero covered in dust tugs at the heart-string, and the footage of the Twin Tower impacts clearly signals that the performance is coming to a close. Some may say that the use of such iconic – and emotive – footage is gauche; but within the context of this piece, it lends such a sense of power and significance to the physical movement that it doesn’t feel like a trivialisation in any way.
Heroes was a really beautiful performance: sensitive without being sappy, powerful without being overbearing. The physical aspect was well refined, the video well used, and the soundtrack… well, that was great. A lot of Peter Gabriel’s Scratch My Back was in there (My Body Is A Cage, Heroes, but I can’t remember(!) whether it was Gabriel’s version of The Power of the Heart or the Lou Reed original), but there was some incredible industrial stuff in there too – the bit that followed Cage was amazing. But it was most certainly a sobering experience, and the experience of walking back outside into the blinding sunlight was a jarring one…