Natalie Abbott– re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT – DANCEHOUSE 5-9th July 2017

Don’t know where the bodies start and end

I am walking, standing still, climbing stairs, I sit–our presence completes the backdrop

Smoking icy dungeon

Bladerunner underworld

I have walked through a threshold, a dream and have been baptized Rachael

Pink, green, white, red, blue

Light a ritual commune

Chatter rolling, tongues kissing

Hugging

She smiles at me like we’ve met before

Strangers

Silver foil floats dry ice

The flavorless smog coats the air

Licking vapor from cigarettes, a bell rings

Fetch something?

 

A naked room waits

 

The first experience of Natalie Abbott’s re(PURPOSE):the MVMNT is a crowd in limbo. Performers are wandering, running, jumping, rolling, smoking and talking through the Dancehouse Theatre. There is no delineation of space between audience and performers instead we are amalgamated, enrobed in colourful light waiting like souls ready to enter our next life. I walk up steps and sit, here there is time to wait and decide to start translating my surroundings through poetry in an effort to bring language to a work that is constantly shifting.  Although choreographed by Abbott, the piece includes collaboration with other performers; theremin player Miles Brown hypnotically moves dancers Cheryl Cameron, Crystal Yixuan, Rachael Wisby and Geoffrey Watson into and through the theatre. Throughout Abbott’s practice, and including (re) PURPOSE: the MVMNT, the fractures between the real and the unreal are explored through an experimental approach to performance where expectations are continuously jolted, broken and re-built. Here Bertolt Brecht’s Alienation Effect and Jacques Lacan’s theory of the ‘real’ are referenced. Lacan proposed that the ‘real’ cannot be spoken or written and therefore the ‘real’ falls into the void of the ‘impossible’, the real being a hard thing to pry out of the calcifying grip of fabrication. As Abbott’s piece consumes time, fiction is a staple digested—and what are disintegrating are the particles of the fourth wall. This transformation places one in a state of confusion; the unreal alters through increasing alienation via organisational tone, whereby the choreography is not behind the scene but is the scene. And, of course, this dismantling of structure updates and adjusts expectation. Expectation is a potent phenomenon that is not only connected with the suspension of disbelief but a conceit of authoritative structures. These scaffolds of power have been, and continue to be, imprinted upon particular cultures and or groups where expectation is a characteristic of colonising or socio-political rules, as evidenced in women’s and indigenous histories.

The amalgamation of bodies—in past and present tenses—straddle worlds, and identifies what we might consider real. Realness in fiction and in waking life; what is the difference? Where is the threshold? And what could this gateway offer us? Fiction is as real as reality because it creates a world in which all the described happenings, truths and lies are real in that realm and these characters exist in order to communicate something to those of us who live outside of this viewed domain. As such, (re)PURPOSE: the MVMNT establishes a collaboration between worlds in an effort to address the ways in which narratives are told. This conversation gives opportunity to the effects and affects of non-linear, feminist storytelling.

Abbott stops mid performance and asks for the sound to be louder, for someone to pass her a prop. She reads script from a sheet of paper or screen, halts—apparently in exhaustion and in pain—directing as she goes. The unfolding of ideas, characters and self makes evident that fiction is not necessarily a fallacy; instead it prompts critical thought as an internal and external recognition. The wrestling of theatrical tropes that this performance displays situates discomfort, revealing untruths as having the capacity to bring thinking out of hibernation. This literary device is critically engaged via Abbott’s adaptation of the archetypal ballet performance The Dying Swan (1905), in which the lonely ballerina pirouettes with great stamina and discipline. Abbott reveals the sweat and exhaustion that comes with such dedication; the ballerina is no longer a mild female figure held like a prop, but autonomous, agential and strong—a silhouette that is unafraid to show vulnerability and tension.

One of the most noteworthy currents that drifted through the performance was the use of text in place of the body. The ‘kill scene’ between Abbott and Cheryl Cameron, written by Abbott during the rehearsal process, is spoken instead of corporally performed—the result borne out of the issue of consent in relation to performing violence. Instead of their bodies translating language, they read and, progressively, their voices distort into deep demonic sounds.  A review of the Dying Swan by Andre Levinson is also recited while Abbott moves around the space, and a conversation had with Marilyn Jones (Australia’s most recognised ballerina and well known for her Dying Swan performance) is verbalised—and here, the conclusion reverberates into future performative iterations. These conversations are orated, as might an actor who paces their lines before a scene is staged; this navigation sees dance as a conduit, language is translated between forms whereby an ending is necessarily not one. Instead, a full stop becomes a comma and story is permitted to transgress narrative norms.  Abbott’s compelling approach to performance reinforces the process of the work: it is crafted but unfolding, it is naked, it is clothed—and provokes a reassessment of thinking.  This alienation is a necessary cardiac arrest that leaves you close enough to death to realize how glazed you were­. 

 

 

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Natalie Abbott, re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017, (left to right) Miles Brown and Natalie Abbott. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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Natalie Abbott, re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017, Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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Natalie Abbott, re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017, (left to right) Miles Brown, Cheryl Cameron and Natalie Abbott. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017, (left to right) Crystal Yixuan Xu, Natalie Abbott. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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Natalie Abbott, re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017, Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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Natalie Abbott, re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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Cheryl Cameron and Natalie Abbott, re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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Natalie Abbott, re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017, (Crystal Yixuan Xu. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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Natalie Abbott, re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017, entrance to performance audience and performers. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

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Natalie Abbott, re(PURPOSE): the MVMNT, 2017, entrance to performance audience and performers. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti for Dancehouse.

Caitlin Patane is a practicing artist living and working in Melbourne and Research Assistant at Art+Australia. Her work focuses on writing, drawing, and an engagement with text and texts. She is interested in publication and editing as artistic practice, and the space between literature and conceptual art are investigated. Her practice is concerned with ideas around translation, history and social potentials of language in its many forms.