Connection and isolation experienced over long distances
On the bus the other day, I overheard a conversation between a woman sitting in the seat in front of me and the person she was speaking to on her mobile. I could tell it was an international call because of her accent (which I couldn't place, exactly), and because her side of the conversation was peppered with phrases like, "I can't hear you" or "Can you hear me?" and then, "What time is there now?" I couldn't follow the gist of her conversation (because I'm not that much of an eavedropper), but her call ended with, "Ohh, is it that late for you? OK, sure, will you call me tomorrow?'.
That final plea, "Will you call me tomorrow?", coupled with the fact that the woman was having a long conversation over the phone piqued my interest. It made me think of all the times myself, my family or my friends had been in situations where you had to maintain the relationship through long distance conversation and contact, often times online or via awkward phone conversations. You want so desperately for the connection to go smoothly, to make up for the vast stretches of water and continents between you, but nothing will ever be as good as face to face contact.
It's this separation and isolation that choreographer Liz Roche explores in her new production, Time Over Distance Over Time, at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta.
With a cast of six dancers (Roche herself, Simone Litchfield, Grant McLay, Henry Montes, Jenny Roche and Rahel Vonmoos), Time Over Distance Over Time becomes a sort of equation for fragmented relationships conducted as one person is in one country, while the other, often times with the rest of their mutual family and friends, sits in another country. The Old Country: equals time, over distance, over time. It's an equation with no positive resolution.
The movements are never what you would call joyous. Roche ensures the movements highlight the strained links people develop over time, as we live farther away from each other, for longer periods of time. Dancers are seen grappling each other for a firm hold, or, somehow, fitting together like a jigsaw, but in awkward ways, like in a crook of their dance partner's neck. In other movements they have their eyes closed, but are holding hands in a circle. Still connected, but without their vision, they don't know how this is the case. The movements are provocative, and, set against recordings of the perfomers' voices, it makes for powerful stuff. Recorded voices echo every ex-pat's uncertainty ("I don't know why I'm here"), every immigrant's frustration, every loved one's sadness as they are left behind.
Interestingly, the mixed media elements, as well as the lighting, were a character in as much as the performers were. Lighting was stark and minimal, as if to highlight even further that disconnect between a person's old support group and their new home. One particularly memorable scene involved a camera projecting an image of the performers on the back wall, posing like a family portrait. One by one, they faded from the image, a harsh reminder of the nature of long distance relationships.
Time Over Distance Over Time is an engaging study into the nature of relationships, and how they are affected by absence and separation.