Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance’s Independent Dance Exchange (INDEX) is a platform to support the development and sharing of new dance works in development by local artists, and the INDEX walking tour was a unique and enjoyable way to experience a diverse series of four dance works in one evening, each presented in a different public space.
During the walks between performance spaces, which were all located in West End, participants were encouraged to connect with others they had not spoken to yet and, if they felt comfortable to do so, to discuss the works together. The walking tour was very well-facilitated, and it was interesting to hear the variety of opinions and interpretations of the works.
A Sun-Safe Summer Striptease
The first work of the evening was A Sun-Safe Summer Striptease, choreographed and performed by Jacob Watton beside the Gas Stripping Tower in Davies Park. The work attempted to explore the climate crisis – with the planet burning, will slip slop slapping be enough?
The choreography of the work straddled a blurry line – when is performed movement dance, and when is it physical performance art? After inciting the audience to chant the slogan on his picket sign (the end is nigh!) Watton stripped off his ghillie suit to reveal red hair and pineapple-print speedos, and enlisted audience volunteers to help him apply sufficient sunscreen for the coming climate apocalypse. It’s not often you see a dance work with a punchline, but this made the ending of the work memorable, and Watton was an enthusiastic and charismatic performer.
Set amongst the greenery of Mappins Nursery, Oblaat also began with audience participation as director and choreographer Juno Toraiwa taught the audience to make paper planes and encouraged them to throw them at the dancers during the work.
Oblaat explored immigration and identity through a series of duets performed by Juno Toraiwa, Emma Lofting, Makira Horner and Jade Brider. A plastic sheet was used as a prop in these duets, interspersed with group canons and choreography, to represent the barrier created by assumptions about heritage and home, and how this could impact on sense of self.
Although the leafy setting of Mappins was beautiful and atmospheric, especially with the use of handheld lights by the dancers, the narrow space made it difficult for some audience members to see the dancers, and limited the potential use of the paper planes. All of the dancers exhibited impressive strength, flexibility, and dedication, especially in a performance space that could be limiting.
Oblaat used contemporary dance to examine the ideas of home and identity, and the ways in which it can be manipulated by those outside of ourselves.
Nerida Matthaei | Phluxus2 Dance Collective
Performed in a West End carpark, Mort was a dark and visceral dance work drawing on disciplines of dance, theatre, and visual art to weave a rich narrative of grief, trauma, afterlife, and ancestry inspired by the Irish folktale Teig O’Kane and the Corpse (1921) translated by Douglas Hyde.
Nerida Matthaei’s choreography of Mort was at times both rigid and chaotic, with all dancers exhibiting incredible strength, control, and fluidity as their bodies intertwined and moved over and around each other, biting and consuming, fighting for control and dominance.
Costuming which hid the dancers’ eyes from the audience and included the addition of inhuman growths to their bodies added to the otherworldly and abstract feeling of the piece, as did the soundtrack of the performers’ breaths and moans.
Fully Automated Human Touch
Matt Cornell and Merinda Davies
Choreographed and performed by Matt Cornell and Merinda Davies, Fully Automated Human Touch explores the impact and importance of human touch on the food that we eat, which is often untouched by human hands until the time that we lift it to our mouths.
Audience members were welcomed into the immersive experience as volunteer test subjects and given “HT enhanced” – Human Touch enhanced, presumably – food and drink to consume. We were shown a video about food automation and production. The images of food harvesting and processing on a massive scale, and without human interaction, was underlaid by a voiceover about the process. While the audience allowed the “HT” to absorb into their food – Cheezels slotted over each finger in a way that felt both scientific and wonderfully childish – Cornell and Davies performed an increasingly intense dance piece, thrusting their bodies at each other and making contact in ways that alternated between combative and affectionate.
Fully Automated Human Touch explored the sustainability of mass consumption of mass-produced food; what we deprive ourselves of by consuming this way; and what the world might look like if all of our ‘basic needs’ can be met this way.