‘Forgery’ was innovative.
Human movement meets machine, and improvisation meets algorithm in ‘Forgery’, the latest offering from contemporary dance company, Australasian Dance Collective.
‘Forgery’ sees company dancers “fed instructions live on stage” from a randomised algorithm developed by concept creator and choreographer, Alisdair Macindoe and Software Developer, Josh Mu. As noted by the collective’s Artistic Director, Amy Hollingsworth in her opening speech, each performance of the show will be unique, effectively meaning “twelve opening nights” across the work’s run.
The live, uncontrolled nature of the performance goes beyond the instructions fed to dancers via headset, with costume, lighting and sound also randomised each night, as the company “embraces bespoke technology to pose questions about creative agency in the digital age”.
Lighting design by Ben Hughes provided a varied and dramatic atmosphere. The bright wash at the start of the performance gave way to highlighted spots and lower lighting through the middle, before a more vivid finish that complemented the crescendo of sound design. As an audience member, the extent to which lighting design is randomised through each section is unclear, but on this ‘opening night’ it worked well with the sound and choreography.
Sound composition by Alisdair Macindoe was a highlight. The computer-generated instructions for dancers rang out in a computerised voice that was slightly eerie, and initially, marginally too fast. This voice was gradually replaced by distortion and off-kilter soundscapes through the middle, and then, like the lighting, returned with renewed intensity into the conclusion. Like a forceful and uncanny Siri, the voice drove home the high concept of the piece, and accented the skill required by the dancers to respond to its accelerating demands.
The movement of the dancers encompassed abstraction, the use of motifs and obviously improvisation. Group, solo work and mirroring were all used as the dancers responded to the commands of the algorithm. Again, it is hard to know the exact role of choreography (also by Alisdair Macindoe) in this improvisation-heavy work, and it is exciting to see the concept stretched and challenged. However, it was clear that the dancers were deeply responsive to each other, confident in movement, and able to combine technical skill and creativity.
Company dancers, Tyrel Dulvarie, Lonii Garnons-Williams, Chase Clegg-Robinson, Jack Lister, Jag Popham and Josephine Weise were able to find moments of wonder, humour and intensity in the framework they were given. Dulvarie and Weise were given solos early on, and both engaged and impressed with their work, offering creative and unexpected paths and springboards for the group to follow. Clegg-Robinson and Lister were precise and imaginative, and particularly in tune with the ensemble. Garnons-Williams’ movement was notably responsive in innovative ways to the algorithm, and brought great physical comedy to the performance, like Popham (and Dulvarie) who was playful and intriguing throughout.
The polished feel of the performance despite its largely improvisational form is a testament to the expertise of these company artists as well as Alisdair Macindoe and the wider creative team. By its nature, the performance is full of waxes and wanes in intensity, and the pay-off of its peaks and troughs will depend on the night. This is the character of this work – an ambitious and innovative piece by Australasian Dance Collective, and one that showcases skill, intelligence and risk-taking.
‘Forgery’ runs until Saturday, 2 October 2021 at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC. For more information visit the QPAC website.
Photography by David Kelly.