Completely absorbing

Dance review
SOLOS by Warwick Long and Jim Hughes, Fieldworks Performance Group, Perth
Studio show, Wellington, New Zealand,  November 1994

When did you last experience a dance performance that completely absorbed you into the dance and left you at the end feeling entirely replete? Such an experience is rare for me and is treasured dearly. I was lucky enough to have just such an experience in viewing two solos by Warwick Long and Jim Hughes presented in the studios of the Royal New Zealand Ballet at the end of the week-long Fieldworks composition and Feldenkrais workshop in Wellington, early in November.

Both solos combined movement with fragments of text and song, exploring aspects of personal memory, relationships, autobiography, and dance as an activity; both were suffused with the velvety quality which comes when dance is created from the inside out.

Long’s My life in the bush reflected on his own life in Australia and that of his Uncle Jack, gum digger and bushman in the New Zealand Waitakere Ranges in the 1920s and 30s while working on the Huia Dam. The flow of movement shared with you the feeling of being deep in the bush, enfolded by tall trees; of trudging along through mud with heavy sacks on your back; of being in the city with traffic coming at you, and at the same time immersed  inanimate conversation with good friends; of being entranced and surprised by Astrid, a woman who was very full-on; and feeling gangly and inarticulate yet full of vitality like the orangutan in the zoo; of being overcome by memory, feeling it in your body to the exclusion of words.

Hughes’ An attempt to recall the past combined flashes of his childhood in North Dublin (Gaelic dancing, tin whistles, vigorous childhood games, herding sheep and cattle in the stead of his drunken rover father, hearing his mother crying), contrasted with those from his professional career as a ballet dancer on the guest circuit in Europe during the 1960s (putting on makeup, trading asides with the great stars of the day, being every bit the danseur noble with a bearing and elegance and expressivity of gesture that still  inflects his everyday movement today). With teasing touches of blarney and gently self-deprecating humour, oneliners such as “I’ve always had a keen interest in Figures”  threaded through anecdotes from his life, Hughes readily conveys his deep and abiding interest in what it is that moves us all.

Hughes is director of Fieldworks, a Perth-based collective whose shared technical training is Feldenkrais technique rather than dance technique. Feldenkrais technique is designed to re-educate the body by working in relaxation and from the inside of the body rather than the outside, seeking embodiment rather than form, presence rather than virtuosity, authentic movement rather than codified. The technique encourages individuals to discover what is possible for themselves, what their own processes are rather than asking them to conform to those designed by another.

As these solos show, this way of working, with its emphasis on internal attention, focus and flow, has enabled them to fill the space of performance with something very enticing, enriching, enfolding, engaging, so much so that you too, the viewer, become very much part of the performance and draw aspects of your own life into the space you share with them.

Let us hope we have a chance to share more performances with them, soon.

This was originally published in Tirairaka: Dance in New Zealand  Issue 13, Summer 1994

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