Truth-seeker takes us into Gideon's world
Deborah Jones, The Australian
24 September 2010
DANCE: Faker. Created and performed by Gideon Obarzanek. The Studio, Sydney Opera House, September 22. Asphalte. Compagnie Derniere Minute. The Playhouse, Sydney Opera House, September 22.
THE Sydney Opera House's second Spring Dance festival has been wonderfully eclectic and stimulating. The breathtaking virtuosity of tap-dancer Savion Glover and the powerful and intellectually curious Sutra from Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui were unsurprising highlights; Narelle Benjamin's In Glass was a welcome one and Gideon Obarzanek's austere 40-minute solo Faker was a surprising one. It's not for all tastes, but I found it deeply involving.
Within the barest of stages -- a neutral space, a desk, a laptop from which he reads a text -- Obarzanek, the artistic director of Melbourne's Chunky Move company, searches for some kind of truth about performance and about the value of dance in particular and his role in it. The text he reads is, supposedly, a letter from a dancer who enlisted his help and guidance to "bring out the fabulous in me". It is quickly apparent Obarzanek has failed her deeply.
In between reading, Obarzanek performs fragments of dance, some excruciating, some lovely. That's it.
On the surface Faker is incredibly basic: a person speaking directly and honestly to the audience, quietly condemning himself and exposing his doubts.
But this is of course a performance, not a therapy session, no matter how much the conditions suggest otherwise. (Obarzanek keeps the lights on in the auditorium for most of the show, something that always makes an audience slightly uncomfortable; when he comes to what we might call the real dance bit, theatrical lighting is introduced.)
I very much enjoyed the mental shifts one has to make with this show. Obarzanek is far from the first performer to play around with layers of perception regarding what is theatre and what isn't, and what is worth doing and watching and what isn't, but Faker does it expertly and memorably.
Asphalte is a high-octane demonstration of hip-hop from the company established by former athlete (middle-distance running; 400m hurdles) Pierre Rigal. Five superb dancers do mesmerising things, usually involving movements that appear to break all laws of nature.
The name of the show suggests a depiction of life on the streets. Well, not really. There's a bit of a nod to the tough life, but this is about aesthetics. Shape and motion are the thing, with the dancers often silhouetted against brightly coloured screens for maximum appreciation.
The strobe-lit finale, where the dancers seem to be suspended in the air, is not original, but lovely all the same. A fun 60 minutes.