the symbolism of cultural rape

Even though it came out a while ago, and I read it by accident when flipping through the pages of my first RealTime in years, I’ve been a bit leery about blogging the review of Crush, mostly because I think despite being a ‘good review’, she didn’t understand what she was seeing, nor pay attention to what was said. Viz. the line, “symbolic of cultural rape”, that could be a fair interpretation of the action if interpretation is your idea of how to deal with art, but not if immediately after the action Lisa quite explicitly described what was going on. Or maybe my perception of the truth and yours are two completely divergent things. Nonetheless, as every artist has to have a bunch of well-rounded media quotes to perch on, I’ll be adding “the symbolism of cultural rape” to “troubling and pornographic” and “deep, primal violation and unconcerned superficiality” from extermination. Anyhow without further reviewing of reviews, here’s the … erm … review.

Moving from the melancholic to the erotic and exploring the fragility and innate cruelty of social experience, Crush is original contemporary dance performed with commitment and passion. The demands on the dancers are considerable, encompassing routines that are sensuous and languid, fast-paced and highly synchronised. Whether gently discovering each other or clawing furiously, the dancers sustain their personas in a dark and dangerous yet familiar circumstances, in the end with enough energy and sense of hope to survive a mad, crushing world.

— RealTime

crush – lisa griffiths, isabella trigatti, amanda phillips
crush – lisa griffiths, isabella trigatti, amanda phillips

dark journey

alex vickery-howe is swept along in the crush

ADELAIDE’S AMANDA PHILLIPS AND MELBOURNE’S FRANCES D’ATH HAVE UNITED TO CHOREOGRAPH A POWERFUL AND AT TIMES GRUELLINGLY INTENSE NEW WORK, CRUSH, AS PART OF I HEAR MOTION, A NEW PLATFORM FOR PROGRESSIVE DANCE ARTISTS PRESENTED BY THE CITY OF TEA TREE GULLY’S GOLDEN GROVE ARTS CENTRE.

Exploring the polarity of the word ‘crush’ and all the bittersweet yearnings it evokes, Phillips and D’Ath guide the audience through a journey that begins innocently enough but travels into the literally crushing extremes of human experience. From the coy uncertainty of young love into the battle that is parenthood (the child always on top) through to confronting, orgiastic images of lust and substance abuse, the rape of other cultures and the struggle to be acknowledged as an individual, Crush rolls with all the highs and lows of a rollercoaster. It must have been quite a ride too for the choreographers, given two weeks to create the work and collaborating for the first time.

Raceless, genderless and indistinguishable from one another, a small group of hooded dancers arrives quivering in the dark, clinging to walls and gliding softly through the space, generating tension and mystery but also a very clear sense of cohesion, a functioning unit.

The dancers take on more individual personas. With these come personal interactions, almost as though noticing each other for the first time. Sexuality awakens: the dancers play out the magnetism and uncertainty of first heterosexual love, and the consequence—a headstrong and demanding child, delightfully portrayed. The playful, cartoonish interactions between weary mother and energetic daughter are the lightest in the piece.

But life isn’t just light, and the work quickly descends into darker territory. Writhing bodies connect in ugly, lusty displays as the music kicks into heavy metal grabs. Distorted expressions of sexual ecstasy are etched into the dancers’ faces, conjuring images of hazy nights on the town peppered with drugs and anonymous couplings. Revelling in this grotesquery, the dancers hold nothing back—daring the audience to be at once titillated and appalled.

Curiously removed from all of this, one performer [Fang Ling] sits on a couch and watches. Later she is dragged to the floor, and overwhelmed in what appears to be a savage attack. Whether intentional or not, the symbolism of cultural rape remains one of the most enduring images of the production.

Children emerge in white and mimic their black-clad elders. There is a sense of rising chaos and then the dancers notice their audience for the first time, silently recoiling in horror. Planted audience members take to the stage, one emptying her handbag and declaring a need to be acknowledged. Daring maybe, but the effect is anti climactic—a teasing performance, fascinating in its mix of sharply contrasting imagery, has been spelt out for us.

Moving from the melancholic to the erotic and exploring the fragility and innate cruelty of social experience, Crush is original contemporary dance performed with commitment and passion. The demands on the dancers are considerable, encompassing routines that are sensuous and languid, fast-paced and highly synchronised. Whether gently discovering each other or clawing furiously, the dancers sustain their personas in a dark and dangerous yet familiar circumstances, in the end with enough energy and sense of hope to survive a mad, crushing world.

Crush, co-choreographers and co-directors Amanda Phillips, Frances D’Ath, dancers Lisa Griffiths, Gala Moody, Adam Synnott, Alison Curie, Kuo, Fang Ling and ensemble, composer Alexander Waite Mitchell, lighting designer Sue Grey-Gardner, rehearsal director for ensemble Jo Naumann; I Hear Motion, City of Tea Tree Gully Golden Grove Arts Centre, Adelaide Oct, 12 & 13

Image: Lisa Griffiths, Isabella Trigatti, Amanda Phillips, Crush, photo Sam Oster