Party line to the musings of men
THE AGE A2
November 23, 2004
Well Gideon Obarzanek has done it again. This time he has given us dance as sociology, possibly even social work, in a multi-layered presentation that is both engaging and thought-provoking.
I Want to Dance Better at Parties arose out of a film documentary Obarzanek made exploring the attitudes of men towards dancing. Rather than doing another nationwide survey like the one that resulted in Wanted: Ballet for a Contemporary Democracy, this gets up close and personal, drawing upon interviews with five men.
The title belies the reality, as three out of the five have a strong affiliation with different forms of dance. The fourth, whose musings gave the title, arrived at dance late, taking it up to allow him to dance better at parties, while the fifth fell into that presumed stereotype that does not feel comfortable dancing and therefore tries to avoid it.
What we see are highly subjective expressions of these men’s experiences performed by trained dancers, who move as if dance is their natural element. What we hear is the men’s voices describing not only their feelings about dance but about themselves, their lives, their relationships.
The men’s images are projected on to five panels above the dancers’ heads. They do a disembodied duet with one of the dancers, showing their dance of choice, finally reaching the static Franc, who does not dance at all. The dancers shine in the various dance forms, charging across the space in vigorous Israeli dances, happily hoffing it hoedown style, and twirling and leaping in soft-footed Greek dances. Interpretation begins to take off in Phillip’s story of learning ballroom – we see his gradual evolution from robotic shuffler to fluid, confident dancer.
Obarzanek interpolates episodes that act as a metaphorical reflection on the emotional states of the various men. Towards the end the dancers take off, hurling themselves across the floor in more traditional Chunky Move mode – crashing, tumbling, avoiding injury by a whisker by somehow always landing on a tiny crash mat. It is an exercise in risk, precision and timing.
The relationship of these interpolations to the theme is not always clear, and some seem overextended, but they do serve to supplement the introspective musings of the five men. There is a real sensitivity and respect for the subjects. Obarzanek has managed to combine narrative and abstraction to give the audience a very direct experience of both the joy of dance and the fear of ridicule.
"As always with Chunky Move the production elements are impeccable, with a finely honed lighting design by Niklas Pajanti and video projection by Michaela French that contributes significantly to the impact of the performance. It is the best use yet of the Chunky Move Studios."