[2007029] abstract : narrative

abstract:narrative (FringeTIX)

inverted dance theatre @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)

12:30pm, Thu 15 Mar 2007

When one wants to see a metric shitload of shows, one must make certain concessions when performing one’s scheduling. One of these concessions is that matinee timeslots are almost mandatory; and the problem with matinees is that they’re school friendly. This means that schools can easily broaden children’s exposure to The Arts by dragging them out to shows; when the students are genuinely interested in the artform at hand, this is a very good thing. When the students don’t give two-fifths of fuck-all about the art, just seeing the excursion as a good excuse to Not Be In School, then this is BAD.

Guess which category of student was in this performance?


abstract:narrative is a pair of dance pieces that rely heavily on movements and feats more frequently found in the typical Garden circus/cabaret piece, which gives the work an interesting aesthetic. I’m not really sure whether the more traditional dance work gels with the strength-and-hold demonstrations, and sometime the transitions between the two styles appear jarring; but it is still a curious mix.

The opening piece takes place on and around a backyard swing-set, the two dancers clad in school uniforms, childish grins and joyous expressions of discovery on their face. Both my neighbour and myself were convinced that there was some undercurrent of exploratory faux lesbianism there – wishful thinking, perhaps? A change of music, the mood darkens, the girls get a bit more competitive, combative… there’s some interesting lighting with a Dolphin torch (which would’ve been spectacular with a bit of a haze effect), some minor acrobatics, and we’re done.

The schoolkids run out to get loaded up on sugar and chips. The second piece starts with rustles and giggles and coughs and reply coughs and giggles and rustles and shushes and louder shushes and rustles and shushes and teachers bounding over chairs to menace the back of the crowd. The dance is much better, an abstract piece which is more exploration of movement – and the control of movement – than classical dance. There’s a feeling of restraint, a tenseness in the muscles, and it’s beautiful. The music is ambient, then softly beating, but a perfect match. And then it’s over, there’s applause, and the dancers leave the Studio.

And then the fun starts.

The bounding teacher starts tearing strips off the kids. I’ve never, ever – not even in the days where the yard-stick and the cane were deemed legitimate teaching methods – seen a teacher verbally attack students so viciously. Limp protestations only drew more ire; it was a joy to watch. After the audience had spilled outside, I commended the teacher for her actions:
“Thanks for laying into those kids – hopefully they’ll learn something, even if it’s only theatre etiquette.”
She looked at me, tired. “Thanks – and I’m sorry, really I am.”
I tilt my head – “What school are you guys from?”
She sees where I’m going: “Temple College… Again, I’m really sorry.”
“That’s OK.” I catch myself… “Actually, it’s not OK. You should have another go.”
She looks forlornly at the ragtag bunch of school uniforms wandering back to Grange Road to catch a bus back to school. “…Yes, I will.” She trots off with a sigh.

Steph Hutchison and Kathryn Newnham deserve medals for not spitting the dummy at the shithead kids in the audience, they really do. They’ve presented a competent and engaging performance, only to be shown utter disrespect by a bunch of shitheads. Hey, I’m generalising – I talked to a few of the students who were as appalled as I about the behaviour of The Guilty – but it suddenly struck me that, when teachers remind you that “if you’re wearing the uniform, you’re representing the school”, it’s really true. A truism from an adult when you’re a kid? Preposterous.

Harrumph. Giggle. Harrumph.

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