REVIEW: The Presence of Wool

Brave New Works 26

Review Performance: 2 November 2019

By Carl Heslop

The Presence of Wool was remounted at Denmark Arts Brave New Works #26, allowing audiences the chance to see Sym Parr’s contemporary dance work one more time. Premiering earlier this year in a shearing shed, The Presence of Wool was adapted to the Denmark Civic Centre with a few line-up changes allowing some Denmark cameos. The Civic Centre lacks the atmospheric elements of its original setting, but this remount still provided an intriguing and engaging experience. The Presence of Wool was performed as the closing piece of the Motion Triptych trilogy of works alongside John Carberry’s film Ameliorer Resolve IV and Nari Lee’s Waterways.

The dance piece wove complex gestural patterns with machine-like characteristics together with a softness in costume and lighting and the signature complexity of James Gentle’s soundscapes. There was a worker-like intensity to the task at hand, from ensemble as the piece evolved from mundane workplace interactions and homages, to the rituals of the mill, to frenzied entanglement and then ghostly dream-like sequences.

Photo: Nic Duncan via Facebook

The Presence of Wool opened to a projection of the woollen mills on the backdrop screen and the echoes of the past provided by tales from workers of the mill, delicately entwined with Gentle’s exploratory sounds. The core ensemble, dressed in costumes nodding to the 1950’s, move across the stage organising, chatting, interacting with nonchalance and a lack of urgency, before forming into machine-like spooling and weaving. Jessica Hesford and Rita Bush are central within the ensemble through this early piece, with transfixing accuracy of movement and presence.

Pic: Tasty Beacon via Facebook

The youth contingent takes the stage to further highlight the presence of wool, from their beautiful patchwork costumes to the tangled spools of wool, the group collect and wrap around each other until one single dancer is wrapped, web-like in the wool. A dramatic and precarious solo of struggle with a soundscape of rising desperation. For the duration of the solo I was convinced one of these strands of wool would bring down the dancer, watching on with trepidation and hope until the choreographed exhaustion and struggle was what brought them down.

Pic: Tasty Beacon via Facebook

From the quiet dripping water and frogs in the soundscape, a cocoon emerges in front of us. Obscured in plain-sight by the proceeding action and intensity, this creature is suddenly alive and moving. Flexing and straining with a visceral quality, limbs appear and disappear until the quivering object releases a dancer who takes flight.

The intensity rises as this almost beautiful creature begins to rhythmically thrash. Encapsulating the incredibly talented Bush, the patterns and shapes this being was able to generate through its movement was thoroughly satisfying visually. Despite knowing there was only one dancer left inside, there were moments it took shape to suggest there were more; the combination of costume and movement tricking the brain.

Pic: Tasty Beacon via Facebook

The Civic Centre lacks a little in ambiance and atmosphere, and some technical difficulties popped up, but the cast were committed to doing the original season justice in this remount. The Presence of Wool was transfixing and intriguing. There were moments of uneasiness and uncertainty, wonderful interplays between the soundscape, choreography and the wool costumes. There was a sense of satisfaction in the experience and I left still thinking about that multi-limbed creature and its ability to hold ghost dancers within it.

This review was published in Denmark Bulletin No. 995 November 14 and is reproduced with permission. Thanks for the support Denmark Bulletin! You can check out their latest edition here

The Author of this review paid for their own ticket to the performance and was not paid to write this review.

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