Computer says go

Forgery (Australasian Dance Collective)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

September 22 – October 2

The Australasian Dance Collective (formerly known as Expressions Dance Company) is a leading Brisbane-based contemporary dance group of much acclaim, whose unique shows celebrate collaboration and risk-taking in equal measure. “Forgery”, commissioned for development by award-winning Melbourne-based dancer, sound designer, choreographer and creative coder Alisdair Macindoe, perfectly encapsulates this core ethos.

The world premiere is innovative in its intent and execution given that it is directed entirely by cutting-edge technology. The resulting improvised choreographic score makes each performance a uniquely authentic experience for dancers and audience members alike. Beginning with direction for its six dancers to find their way to the stage, the shows sees its ensemble of performers then fed instructions live on stage by a complex series of algorithms which also dictate lighting, costumes and music. Initially, the directions are given as part of the sound design, before morphing into earpiece instructions that the audience sees projected at the back of the stage, effectively including us in the creative process as we see the show’s duration tick down in time.  

From its choreographic start, the bespoke Brisbane Festival show progresses to solo and duo work before a returning choreographic conclusion, with increasing speed and decreasing gaps between instructions in its exciting final minutes. Each performance sees a different order of different things, such as a long duo, leaving four dancers off stage in Saturday’s matinee performance.

When the dancers, Chase Clegg-Robinson, Tyrel Dulvarie, Lonii Garnons-Williams, Jack Lister, Jag Popham and Josephine Weise are all on stage, it is often difficult to know where to look as they each independently translate the instructions in simultaneous solos, finding their own styles inside the structure as phrases are often played out in different sequences or with pauses at different spots. Still, highlights mostly come when the group flock together or are moving en masse across the stage.

“Forgery” is fast moving and reactive at its core, such as when dancers have to navigate out of each other’s spaces upon instruction to spread evenly across the stage or are told where certain limbs are to be placed and when to interact in physical connection with others. Yet, it is a clear celebration of unique ways of thinking and moving as individual interpretations of a common language are communicated using different physical tools.

At just 45 minutes long, it is certainly short and sharp, catering to the attention economy of the digital world from which it has originated, as variables are added to the skeleton of each structural segment. It is, however, crammed with depth and an intensity that makes its short show time entirely apt, given that instructions are sometimes changing every 10 seconds. The limited time this gives dancers to complete ideas gives added invigoration. With so many instructions to translate (over 3000 during the season), hasty, condensed responses are required to convey physical ideas before they are changed.

Silliness settles its appeal to even dance laymen, giving us humour in instructions such as ‘your eyebrows are your thighs’ and affording a connection through easily identifiable concepts like Incy Wincy Spider, a Mexican wave, tai chi and the Thriller dance. And the soundscore of compositional works from Macindoe is often evocatively ominous towards a thunderous climax, supported by collaboration with Ben Hughes’ lighting design.

With all of its unique challenges, “Forgery” celebrates the flexibility and skill of its performers, but also encourages appreciation of the language and discipline of dance. To be given the rare opportunity to see chance choreography not just done, but done well, is thrilling in and of itself, but the work also brings with it an integral depth in its lead towards contemplations around creative agency and consideration of what is meant by choreography. As all great art does, however, “Forgery” constructs no finite answers, giving its audiences further reason to want to go again to more of its season of premiere productions of the work.

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