Performance: Unstoppable by Momentum Dance

Performance: Unstoppable by Momentum Dance

Unstoppable – Momentum Dance, 5 August 2017 at The Redmond Theatre, Ocean Reef.

What if you found a way to keep on dancing after the age of 30, 40, 50, 60, 100? This resounding question posed by an older-than-usual group of dancers and dance makers is at the very centre of Momentum Dance’s Unstoppable program. Presented at the Redmond Theatre this enlightening and joyful performance justifiably questions why opportunities for older dancers are so limited.

Aged between 45 and 63 years of age, the Momentum dancers meet once a week and contribute financially to commission choreographers to create dance works on older bodies. Including renowned dancers and dance makers who want to continue to dance beyond the stereotypical age, Perth’s ‘newcomers’ quite literally dispute the idea that you need to have a young body to be a good dancer. Unified in their quest to make dancing sustainable for those otherwise considered past their prime, these dancers’ worked their older bodies with irrefutable agility, performing with undeniable style and grace.

Unstoppable commenced with a filmic interlude, cleverly interwoven throughout the sections of the performance. The personalised interviews transported audience members on a journey through each dancer’s background and revealed the place of dance in the heart and soul of each one.

The first work Subsided Vortices, choreographed by Daryl Brandwood, was inspired by the constant ebb and flow of the waves crashing on the shore. Much loved in Australian ballet circles, Brandwood worked with the dancers to create an evocative piece that was seamlessly supported by the sublime composition of Max Richter and coastal projections by Phillippa Clarke. The ensemble moved in perfect cohesion to create constant waves of motion, reaching and pulling with the finesse one would expect of bodies able to recall and sustain beautiful lines. As the choreography developed the sheer requisite of dance to these performers was arresting. The truth of this intrinsic necessity contrasted powerfully with the imagery of the dancers hovering over the precipice symbolised by the lines taped on the floor. Perhaps a reference to the older adults in our society who teeter on the edges of inclusion and exclusion, this strengthened the exquisite imagery Brandwood used to acknowledge the unified connection of the group to their art form.

The recollection of movement and its imprint on our bodies is further developed through Phillippa Clarke’s In the Blood. Conceptually originating out of the movement memories of each dancer, Clarke suggests that ‘dance is like a virus” passed on and growing in others. The repetition of the spoken text from the ‘vectors’ of the virus accentuates the movement of the dancers as they reimagine old choreography from their personal histories. Dressed in red and black, the dancers perform sequences from their individual pasts that develop into ballet, tap and Flamenco motifs. These are then replicated and passed between the dancers. Fragmenting and expanding in a diverse synthesis of the movements still existing in the muscle memory of the dancers, this collage of memories is skilfully knitted together to form a warm blanket enveloping the audience and the dancers themselves. Abstract projections adorn the cyclorama and in the warmth of the lighting the dancers perform supportive counter-balances, offering themselves with uplifted chin and chest. The dancers gift to us their shared history and their joy in doing so is as infectious as the most virulent bacteria. With fists drawn into the abdomen and then released with vibrating shudders this motif drives home what has already become clear – that dance is at the very core of all dancers. It cannot be separated from the soul, nor can the sharing of it be prevented.

Israeli choreographer Jin Plotkin’s A Memo was a superlative closing to the show, capturing the strong bonds of trust, caring and support that exist in the relationship between parents and their children. Beginning with the projected image of a daughter’s thank you letter to her mother, this work references the significance of parents, families and community. The faultless integration of movement and design aroused a contagious flood of uncomplicated joy and emphasised humans’ instinctive desire for connection. One of the dancer’s children appeared in the work, supporting the juxtaposition of young and old explored throughout the overall performance. The final image of the little girl’s mother brushing her hair as she observes the prostrate dancers is particularly striking in its acknowledgement of the irrelevance of age as a ‘thing’.

The powerful subtext of this work, and the ultimate resolution of Unstoppable, is that dance is a relentless virus that will continue to be passed on through the connections we so crave, irrespective of age. Through this first compelling performance Momentum Dance have successfully spread their infection, simultaneously dispelling the myth that dancers have a use-by date.

The question to be asked now is where to from here? Wherever Momentum goes next, the journey there looks set to redefine the perceived limitations of age.

 

– Deanna Greenhalgh