The Stephanie Lake Company
image: 'Colossus' - The Stephanie Lake Company
A circle of dancers in black costumes and with bare hands and feet, lie on the floor of a Carriageworks theatre. Flickering shadows, momentary music, voices, silence; the movement of a foot or hand, or the rising of a chest are the only signs of life perceptible to the audience.
Ripples of movement are unleashed around the circle like a pebble thrown into a pond, one dancer leaving the circle to ‘conduct’ the ring of dancers with anarchic grace. The flick of her arm sets off the ring to undulate like a pack of falling dominoes, then two hands move so that the sides of the circle rise and fall in obedience to her directions.
The permutations that then unfold bounce from dystopic to organic to mechanical to emotional and back again ... all the beauty and the ugliness of the collective experience.
Why is it that identical group response to stimuli given by another human being can be so unsettling? On the one hand, if it is a gesture of anger towards a singular other (who is not in unison), it makes us think of bullying or persecution that can be set off in a schoolyard or a nation. On the other hand, if it appears to be a group instinct, it may remind us of the persuasive nature of ‘group think’. When it is triggered by an external force so figuratively on stage it makes us alert but wary of its potential power.
Lighting effects on the dancers seem to provoke movements like plants following the journey of the sun. Another convergence of dancers has you thinking of the extraordinary instinct of a flock of birds to effortlessly fly in configuration. The potential beauty of the group is also realised in this production.
My more technical and media-orientated brain on viewing ‘Colossus’ brought forward memories of old, old movies starring actress Esther Williams; where amazing synchronized swimmers gracefully moved through water using its buoyancy to enhance their elegant choreography. These groups were choreographed to bedazzle and charm.
image: Ester WIlliams in 'Million Dollar Mermaid' 1952
The dancers in ‘Colossus’ had a wooden floor, clever lighting, minimal dark costumes and an extraordinarily diverse soundtrack.
A courageous production that continually built and rebuilt around its theme.