THIS is the kind of theatrical event that you can experience only once.With an audience of around 32 people seated in the centre of a magical stone circle, the overwhelming impression was of silence, broken occasionally by the satirical laugh of a kookaburra and more substantially by the musical performances of Nitya Bernard Parker on the shehnai, supported Susan Clarke and Michael Norris.
Conceived as a kind of homage to Weereewa (the Aboriginal name for Lake George), “disAPPEARance” played out on the cracked, dry bed of the ancient lake, known for its rapid disappearances and equally sudden appearances.Adelaide singer Anya Anastasia, who ushered us into the magical arena with her voice, later performed a poignant song that somehow matched the dryness of the lake.
Appearance and disappearance were indeed on the mind of choreographer Dalman, as she cleverly hid her dancers behind reflecting mirrorlike objects and in the grasses of the lake itself, so that it was a complete surprise to be confronted by the appearance at the beginning of the work of five dancers clad in burnt green and slowly descending upon us. Equally, at the end, the dancers came and went like the lake.Visible until the last moments was the silent form of Malaysian Jyh Shyong Wong, slowly, imperturbably dragging a water-divining stick behind him. Reinforcing that was the figure of Dalman herself on the periphery, also wielding a dowsing-stick.
This work, divided into nine scenes with titles like “Journeying”, “Wandering”, “Lake Angel” and the final “disAPPEARance”, teased us with changing views of the lake or, as Dalman puts it, “the mysteriousness of its atmosphere and personality, with its changing moods and colours”.While several cast members, Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal, Janine Proost and Ruby Dolman, performed in the modern idiom long associated with Dalman’s work, the Taiwanese dancers in this production – Hsiao-yin Wong, Yi-ching Chen and Fu-rong Chen – brought sophisticated, muscular ballet skills to bear, spectacular in the scene where Fu-rong Chen menaces the female dancers like a creature that was half-reptile and half crouching tiger. This scene was resolved when the female dancers exorcised the beast of the lake using Buddhist hand-percussion instruments.
Not so successful was the scene where dancer Janine Proost used a tambourine to introduce a scene of jolting vigour, at odds with the quiet mystery of the lake. As well, the director’s decision to have the dancers break the magic by entering the circle and touching members of the audience had at least one frightened young person running to her mum. Was it right to break the spell?
Illusion or reality, one thing was certain you’ll never see exactly the same performance again.
Some elements of “disAPPEARance,” will be included in “Walking on Water….and other miracles” Ralph Wilson Theatre, Gorman House Arts Centre, at 4pm, March 30 as part of the Weereewa Festival closing day. Tickets are $25. Bookings through weereewa.iwannaticket.com.au