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Life with Lavendar in London town

Monday, 22 October 2012

Mortal Engine

A few weeks ago I found out that Chunky Move were touring to London to perform Mortal Engine at the Southbank Centre.

I am going to see Chunky Move, I told the Husband. Can you look after Dragon that night?

Who is Chunky? he asked. Why do you want to see him move?

Chunky Move is an Australian contemporary dance company based in Melbourne, Victoria. Founded by Gideon Obarzanek in the mid 90's, they have been on my radar since 2003 when I lived in Melbourne and took classes at their studios. Their HQ resembled a big bar of chocolate which had been gnawed at by a giant rat:

Cadbury or Nestle?
Inside the windowless studios which were painted a honeycomb yellow, I would take weekly contemporary classes, wondering if I would catch a glimpse of Mr Obarzanek looking artistic and moody. The dancers from his company often taught our classes and over time, I came to view Chunky Move as a dance home by default.

Artistic? Moody? Nah....

On Saturday night, I was the first to enter the empty Queen Elizabeth Hall theatre. As I took my seat and watched the audience come in, I saw Gideon Obarzanek walking down the aisle, takeway coffee in hand, looking like, well, Gideon Obarzanek. I felt like shouting Hi! before I realised he did not know me even though his company felt like a piece of my past.

Mortal Engine is known for being a contemporary dance piece which wholly embraces motion capture video and sound responsive projections as part of its choreography. The technology utilised is not an adjunct to the piece but very much an equal performer in its own right. In his notes, Obarzanek, describes the work as a dance-video-music-laser performance.

Usually this kind of thing turns me right off a dance piece. I often feel that if the work is good, it doesn't need the flashiness of lights and lasers to embellish it.

Mortal Engine proved me wrong. As I watched the piece unfold, I marvelled how he had seamlessly integrated all the different components together to create some wonderful performance moments that were fresh to my eye. The sceptic in me got a big slap.

There was also slightly too much laser and noise work at times, making me feel as if I were trapped in a bad rave venue. And some choreography which made me wonder if Obarzanek is bored with bodies.

Nonetheless I left excited about what this work it meant for the future of dance. And curious as to how quickly all the London creatives in the audience that night will start to adopt these methods into their own work.

Congrats Gideon. Good job.