Having flounder for feet is not typically a desirable quality for a dancer. But that scenario is embraced by Australasian Dance Collective’s artists following Forgery’s impromptu instructions, which create an entertainingly unpredictable and frequently incongruous choreographic mix.
The ensemble of six makes the seemingly impossible possible as they translate randomly generated computer commands into movement. While we’re contemplating how one can simultaneously travel and maintain stillness, or exchange the actions of the eyebrows with the actions of the chin, then use the collarbones to turn non-existent crowbars into notional keys, they’re showing us.
This is improvisation on steroids. It utilises not only imagination but also disinhibition, curiosity and trust, in conjunction with fine motor control and spatial awareness. Even when responding individually, the dancers work collectively, supporting each other with a unified purpose. In creating their own interpretations no one artist stands out from the others, as can often occur with set choreography.
There’s a lovely sense of play and lack of self-consciousness that tap into a childlike delight for the audience, as we watch the cast adopt the physicality of rice, dance as if identifying as the colour fluoro pink, or form a choo-choo train. Throw in scrunchy cat bones and feet, low-key and understated dance battles, and national dances, to name just a few more scenarios, and you have a lot more laughs than usually heard during a contemporary dance show.
And that’s the thing. Art is about ideas, and the more widely they can connect, the more successful they can be. If there is a place for esoteric elitist art, it’s not in a performance form dependent on bums on seats. Art can find its mark by making us think and/or feel, in a variety of methods. Making us laugh, especially in a bleak time, is its surest.
Forgery certainly has nailed a brilliant concept with maximum intrigue appeal for audiences, tapping into the zeitgeist. Creator/choreographer Alisdair Macindoe is inspired by the intersection between technology and humanity – a pertinent theme in modern society at a day-to-day level through our increasingly obsessive personal device use, but also one poised to encroach even more through super computers and artificial intelligence.
So Forgery isn’t just about silliness. For all the off-beat madness generated by the scenario, the programming (coded by Macindoe) also directs passages of straightforward movement, juxtaposing mood as well as tempo to maintain interest and balance. Its quality overall is perambulating, rather than virtuosic in a showy expansive way – there is little that leaves the ground – but it requires terrific concentration, articulation and nuance. Opening night included a pre-choreographed section of three parts known as ‘the phrase’, which can be presented in a reordered sequence. But it also might not appear at all: Forgery‘s impromptu computer-directed instructions to the troupe will generate a premiere performance (and choose their wardrobe!) at each of its 12 shows.
In this genre, the process for the artists can sometimes trump the outcome for the audience. What ensures Forgery‘s success is that it includes viewers in the creative process. We hear or read the commands the dancers are receiving via an earpiece, so we’re not second-guessing what a movement means, or represents. If we weren’t, we might find some of antics amusing, interesting or bizarre at face value, without having a sense of the why. While a few audience members may prefer being free to make their own a subjective interpretation, any who has ever been left floundering to make sense of movement when it doesn’t viscerally connect will embrace this inclusivity. Who doesn’t like being in on a joke?
On the presentation side, Macindoe’s soundscape is a perfect accompaniment, echoing the action with the inclusion of amusing sound effects. However, losing the white text projections in the flare of stage lights became a distraction at times, and the predominantly shadowy monochrome state will bother some. While bigger stages mean bigger audiences, the intimacy of the Cremorne is always rewarding.
Not only is a festival the ideal forum for this type of exploration, Forgery also encapsulates ADC’s ethos of collaborative risk-taking that expands its artistic boundaries and connection with audiences. Watching these artists lay themselves bare to the unknown only increases our admiration.
Forgery runs at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, until 2 October 2021.