Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
Quirky, abstract, and extremely pink
Performers dressed as poodles, idiosyncratic projections and overpowering pinkness: Glory by Phillip Adams BalletLab is a manic dance show like you won't often see. Presented at Temperance Hall from 19-23 March as part of Dance Massive, this show sold out every performance and gave its audiences a lot to take in and take away. It was an abstract work, rich with absurdist imagery and graphic content that you simply cannot unsee.
The show opens with an empty stage and five performers dressed in body-hugging pink outfits accented with fluff. (I initially thought they were flamingos - they were extremely pink - but other people have interpreted them as pink poodles, and they're probably right.) These pink creatures are docked on one side of the stage and four out of the five come out dancing gleefully and chaotically, never out of step and yet never in sync with each other. The fifth remains docked, awaiting his turn. When the four are done, he comes - in a slower performance that somehow feels older and deeper compared to the childlikeness of the others, establishing a clear power dynamic early on in the show. This dynamic is maintained throughout the show and becomes a defining feature of it.
The show branches out into a number of other sequences, sometimes with the dancers in martial arts costumes, and at other times in delicate, subtly stylish clothing: in any case, always pink. The fifth performer is always distinct from the other four - he holds the power in every story. Between sequences, there are pink projections on the giant white wall behind the stage. They range from pleasantly abstract moving colours to more graphic depictions of a crucified creature (which I thought at first was a hedgehog, but it may have been a poodle) and then male genitalia (if you find images of male genitalia confronting, this show probably isn't for you). The projections resemble the style of old Windows screensavers, a cool 2019 version of sorts, if screensavers were still a thing. They are anything but boring, though - they hold the show even when there's not a single dancer on stage.
The pace of the show is dramatically inconsistent, and it seems that way by design. The dancing is always frenzied, almost too fast to be able to really register what's going on. This lends a consistently playful and childlike quality to the four dancers who seem to be dancing in celebration of nothing in particular. I got a distinct sense of pure present-ness in their antics. By contrast, the dancing and actions of the fifth are always controlled, and always controlling. There is always a sinister sense of subtext in all his movements, and his influence over every scene is unquestionably authoritative. The projections between and after scenes, when there are no dancers on stage, appear to inform the interpretation of how the fifth directs the four. The (very literal) climax then extends his influence beyond the four other performers - he leaves the stage, he leaves the room, but he is powerful over the audience, too, who sit captive to the endless final scene before we are told we may leave.
This show, in all its pink abstractness, will certainly mean different things to different people, but the themes and images of God and Glory that it contains and explores and gleefully satirizes, are substantial in content and form. This show is entertaining and thought-provoking, but above all, a celebration of freedom and quirkiness art.