Dancers Harriet Ritchie, Stephanie Lake and Joseph Simons in Chunky Move’s Connected. Photo by Jeff Busby.
The Australian company Chunky Move debuted in Seattlewith the piece Connected at Meany Hall Thursday night, a collaborative piece using a kinetic sculpture and choreography. Having founded and directed the company for 17 years, Artistic Director Gideon Obarzanek will say farewell to Chunky Move at the end of this tour. His vision about representing the fundamental relationship between the environment and people carried out thematically throughout the 1-hour performance.
The piece opened with Reuben Margolin’s sculpture, a hanging mechanic model made of wood and reinforcement wire, and Gabrielle Nankivell and Ross McCormack walking to center stage. The lights switched abruptly and the music screeched with sounds of a tinkling machine, launching Nankivell into unexpected disruption. She flailed and threw herself as if electrified by the floor and controlled by the music. Obarzanek’s choreography for the floor was mesmerizing; the speed at which Nankivell articulated her limbs while tumbling on the floor made it seem like each part of her body had a mind of its own—yet they all synchronized well enough to produce a controlled kinetic chaos.
Meanwhile McCormack used magnets to systematically attach cardstock to the hanging wires. Marnie Palomares, wearing white, tight fitting clothes instead of black like the rest, joined in attaching the cardstock. All performers switched randomly from building the sculpture to chaotically dancing until the complete cardstock structure hung from all 222 wires. This structure resembled the geometrical shape of a honeycomb. The wires it hung from were in turn attached to 22 wires that fed through a wooden platform, leaving the ends free for attachment. Palomares tethered the performers’ backs and limbs to those 22 wires. She proceeded to walk backward into the sculpture, but the quartet, controlling the sculpture, made it rise, creating a pathway for Palomares. The quartet’s minimal shifts affected in a magnified way the movement of the structure. As the focus shifted from the quartet to Palomares, it became obvious that the moving sculpture had become her duet partner. Later, during the Q&A, Obarzanek mentioned that the four dancers controlling the sculpture had become instruments, just like a musician becomes an instrument for music to exist.
Dancers Alisdair Macindoe and Marnie Palomares in Chunky Moves’ ConnectedPhoto by Jeff Busby
Another gratifying moment occurred when McCormack shaped the sculpture into an inverted triangle; the balancing point rested on Palomares’ chin as she stared up at it. Palomares and McCormack’s trio with the enormous piece of art was reminiscent of childhood’s curiosity; she played with the strings like a child plays with a puppet. This moment had the simplest choreography, but it was visually rich and particularly intriguing because it fulfilled the audience’s desire to discover every possible transformation the structure could undergo. Obarzanek seemed to be commenting on the direct relationship between the public and an art piece. This theme was entertainingly carried into the next section of the piece.
Lake, dressed in a museum guard’s uniform, verbally explained the incident reports she had to file when things went wrong at a museum in Sydney. The rest of the company joined in, wearing the same suit and tie uniform, to the sounds of different stories from museum guards. Each story hilariously illustrated the boredom of watching people interact with pieces of art, and expressed the annoying task of maintaining rules, such as keeping the public at a 20 cm distance from the piece of work. The task of doing a guard’s routine job while turmoil of emotions built in their minds when people did not attend to the museum’s rules paralleled the beginning of Connected, when the systematic arrangement of cardstock contrasted the chaotic dancing.
After a series of methodical walking patterns, the quintet suddenly took off their pants, ties, and jackets and started a game of tag. The group connected through different body parts and moved in mirrored symmetry, mimicking the waveforms of the sculpture. Each individual’s action had a reaction from the group; just like their weight shifts had affected the shapes the paper sculpture transformed into in the previous section. Through this section Obarzanek seemed to depict the cyclical relationship people have to art and the environment.
In a quieter section, all five performers randomly formed geometrical shapes with their hands, which Obarzanek later revealed were the representation of crystals found in nature. These motifs were beautiful recurrences throughout the piece and alluded to other patterns found in the world’s surroundings.
During the Q&A, Obarzanek explained the collaborative process. The music was inspired by constructed, stringent, and harsh electric guitar sounds transformed into something organic, and composed the work by translating the dancers’ movement from a video. The lighting was designed by interpreting the color “temperature” of the music’s pulses and beats.
Through Connected, Obarzanek invites the audience to closely observe the metamorphosis of strict, linear, and mathematical systems—in nature and in society—into organic kinetic entities by sharing the various ways humans and patterns in nature take in information from the environment. His collaborative process is an example of how everything is connected.