Drama via dance

Issue 

Four generations
A dance event directed by Norman Hall
Performance Space, Surry Hills
Wednesday-Sunday until March 27
Reviewed by Gary Boyle

Four Generations is a poetic dance event which lives up to the designer's claim of uniqueness. It is a production using the lives of the dancers as raw material from which to express themselves in an hour and a half of the best quality.

The short opening sequence deceives with its electronic music; one suspects a typical "postmodern" routine where performers move robot-like among the strange white pillar-box shapes on stage. However, the mood soon shifts into higher gear, and the four dancers communicate with the audience through a build-up of expressive movement and synergy. The music switches abruptly into wild percussion: drums, bongo, chimes and gong all interwoven in amazing playing from Patricia Borell.

Elizabeth Dalman, dance elder of the four, performs with grace and dexterity. She shows a finesse and reserve that allow her counterparts much leeway. The second oldest, Patrick Harding-Irmer, is incredibly agile for his 48 years. His energetic portrayal of his own dance life moves from jazz to free expression to the classical. He offers humour and candour in all his work.

The younger performers are Susan Barling and the well-known Gideon Obarzanek. She is subtle and flexible while he is physical and sensual. Their creative difference works beautifully in the performance as a whole. Obarzanek dances with a lithe dynamism meant to evince a rebel youth. In his biographical sequence he is original, technically superb and almost primal in energy output.

The whole of Four generations could be summed up as drama via dance; it includes minimal but creative use of mixed media (tape, slides) that never intrudes on the dance. The choreographer's modesty is apparent, an aspect not common in some contemporary dance. The dynamic interplay of these generations tells a story of artists and aspirants, but more so it speaks to the audience of their human struggle to achieve and its problems.

The empathy in the audience is at times palpable. The word "intimacy" comes to mind, for this is what the four dancers have freely offered, a rarity in today's art.

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