<< -- 4 -- Malcolm Tattersall SUNSHINE AND STARS
That would have been the high point of any ordinary day but in the evening we attended the opening of Seulle, presented jointly by dancenorth (they like lower case) and the AFCM. dancenorth is, I think, Australia's only professional modern dance company based outside a capital city and their work, particularly under Jane Pirani's direction, has been part of my life for the last fifteen years.
Seulle, inspired by a fifteenth century French tapestry declaring a nobleman's love for his wife ('only you'), was created by Meryl Tankard for her Australian Dance Theatre in the late 90s.
The audience is presented with a taut screen across the full width and height of the stage, divided into three panels; images are back-projected on it and a harpist is seated just in front of one corner. The dancers come on stage between the projectors and the screen, and we see them as Balinese wayang shadow-puppets. They play games with our perceptions, sliding 'into' the cracks between panels, shrinking and growing, distorting their bodies, making head or hands float away and re-attach: beautiful, witty, delicate and mysterious. All the time, the screen images are slowly changing from the tapestry to renaissance palazzo to woodcuts of fabulous beasts, while Marshall McGuire's harp segues through renaissance and baroque instrumental pieces.
'Seulle'. Photo courtesy of dancenorth 2006
The unearthly counter-tenor of Tobias Cole joins him from behind the screen and, in a stunning coup, the screen falls and the lighting changes. We see the dancers for the first time, five identically dressed young women in sculpturally-flounced white skirts and body paint, with the singer walking between them up to centre-stage. The projected images now come from behind us, dressing the dancers in shifting patterns of dappled colour. From this point onwards the focus is on the music, Che faro senza Eurydice, Caro mio ben, Nel cor più non mi sento and more, while the dancers respond to the singer as the corps de ballet would to a solo dancer.
The whole show was pure magic. There is a four-night season here before it tours to Cairns and Mackay and, as we left, people were buying tickets to see it again. The Festival has three more days to go, and we still have more musicians to hear and one new venue to discover. Will Seulle hold its place as the highlight of my festival? Perhaps.
Copyright © 8 July 2006
Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia
MALCOLM TATTERSALL'S FIRST REPORT FROM THE 2006 FESTIVAL
THE AUSTRALIAN FESTIVAL OF CHAMBER MUSIC