Intro to Dance: Dance Concert Review – Construct
This revival of Tanja Liedtke’s last work, Construct, which premiered in London in 2007, is a superb memorial to the choreographer, who died at the age of 29 in a traffic accident shortly three months after she was appointed artistic director of Sydney Dance Company.
Construct is about building, both emotional relationships and dwellings. Tanja Liedtke expressed her ideas through the simplest metaphor of making a building and giving her cast of three a movement language based on their construction tasks yet rich in resonances, that go as far as the viewer’s imagination cares to take them. This is the kind of classic comedy routine that you might see on an old film where they had a chance to cut and paste any aberrations. Here it is live and impeccably timed to have the audience roaring with laughter in anticipation of the action as well as the jumbled human jigsaws that result. By the end of this sequence, the bodies of Chan and Mattana have been stretched and pulled in all directions. They are both phenomenally flexible but strikingly different in height and physique, a factor that contributes to the visual variation.
Meter-long laths of wood are essential to the work, becoming picture frames, back scratchers, a picket fence, a cricket bat and much else. Smacked together, they sometimes add significantly to DJ TR!P’s resonant, inventive score. Construct is fresh, at times even brilliant, like in the opening scene, which was danced by Kristina Chan, Paul White and Alessandra Mattana.
The dancers performed a series of jaw-dropping moves that could have posed real danger if not for the hairsplitting timing of the three. It was scary and delightfully hilarious at the same time. For long moments White juggled the two daredevil girls, who fell back and forth, stiff as logs, and tried to catch them inches before their heads hit the floor. This was done with charm, ease, poise and a true spirit of camaraderie on his side, as well as an endless faith and audacity on theirs.
The scene with a hand drill was also uniquely smart. He becomes increasingly frantic trying to deal with both together. It is all hilarious. He leaves them to get a cordless hand drill, whose bursts of sound and pistol-like pointing directs first himself and then the women into poses and movements, but it also becomes a machinegun to shoot them.
These timber battens are key properties. The dancers begin by placing them precisely and rhythmically end to end, and next to one another, eventually standing them as A frames, which become metaphors for house and home. A family story develops, with romance, a baby, the drudgery of domesticity and finally entrapment when Paul, takes her back to the audience, begins to quiver and shake, confined in a slab of pale light as White efficiently builds a prison around Chan, placing more and more battens, log-cabin-wise, around her until she is obliterated.
Liedtke achieve so much with few performers in such a basic set. An open stage is bordered by some carpentry tools a ladder, a sawhorse, an electric drill and so on, plus decorative elements such as fairy lights and a bold red cord that briefly frames the action. But it is essentially the performers who create the changing moods and convey the ideas.
Their choreography is based on everyday movement that is molded, amplified and styled into a form of theatrical expression powered by the thoughtful intelligence behind it. As they work with their lengths of wood, window and door frames, the dancers create vignettes that touch on relationships, families, buildings as shelter or symbols of wealth, newness and decay, amusing and touching aspects of human existence.
Everything happens at a cracking pace, occasionally slowed long enough to allow full play to Liedtke’s subtle sense of humor. The quickest and funniest sexual coupling I have seen on stage is instantly followed by the arrival of a fully-fledged toddler in the body of the crouching Mattana, who grows slowly and cleverly through puberty to her full height.
From the time I started watching this concert to the very end, every type of dance I learned about in this class was accompanied by it in its entirety. Each dancer exceled in their performances not only showing the growth they have gained in dance, but the emotions that made each performance different in its own way.