Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Balletlab - INTERVIEWS

 The Zen of Car-Crashing

Paul Andrew speaks to Balletlab mainstay, dancer Brooke Stamp about the reprise of 1999's runaway success AMPLIFICATION a major work that established the Melbourne dance company as a force to be reckoned with and something about that zen moment between life and death at the heart of the story.

Brooke Stamp likes the English author JG Ballard’s erotic turn of phrase. Recently while watching an old television interview with the novelist, Stamp was struck by his curious use of metaphor used to describe the tumult of a horrific car accident: “it was a carnival of limbs and torsos.”

While Ballard’s 1973 novel Crash explores the car crash for its fetishistic possibilities, symphorophilia or 'car-crash sexual-fetishism' to employ those terms once rattled by old-school psychology, Amplification is contemporary dance at its most visceral; an oblique multi-narrative pivoting around the site of a car crash, which according to Stamp is less about fetishism: “it’s about the crash as a metaphor for mental or physical disassociation.”

Stamp performed in the original 1999 production of Ampflication and is ‘stoked’ that Adam’s has reprised the work today.

“The work stems from the idea that at the exact moment of a car crash, the human body experiences 1.6 seconds of mental ‘disassociation’ time freeze time, the endless frozen fragment of time between the horrible realisation that you are about to crash and the actual impact. 

Using the car accident as a metaphor for mental and physical disassociation,”Phillip intends the work to deconstruct and reconstruct the site of this impact, continues the dancer enthusiastically, “leaving the body in a state of chaos [rather than ecstasy]," Stamp says.

"Phillip visited hospital wards to interview accident victims and study bodies while making this work. It’s intense and poetic.”

“A carnival of limbs and torsos”, such a great image isn’t it?,” repeats Stamp with a grim smile, “In the interview Ballard was describing scenes in the 1996 film made by David Cronenberg inspired by various adaptations of Ballard’s work.  I am currently reading The Crystal World, and it’s really my first foray into the actual writing of Ballard. People do often query if he was on acid when he was writing, and this excites me as it’s an appropriate analogy for Phillip Adam’s own creative choreographic process. “

Stamp like her Balletlab director and colleague Phillip Adams, often draws choreographic inspiration from both technology and film.

“In my performances I personally draw mostly from sci-fi writers like Jack Vance, who our composer Lynton Carr introduced me to, he has a slightly more theatrical tone of the apocalyptic- monsters and demons and the like- and images from David Lynch’s films too - Lost Highway for example  versus early classical choreographies for the ballerina Ana Pavlova- all swim throughout my mind. “

So despite the metaphor use for Balletlab being quite different to Ballard, the work, like many of Phillip Adam’s creative works, also appears to be intoxicating in a strange way, as Stamp hints, perhaps even a meditation on eros and death.

“Yes it’s sex and death that ultimately drive Phillip in his work, or should I clarify this further, his fear of death. He suggests that he creates work to deal with the fear of dying, and therefore the dancer is the vehicle for his own obsession. It’s perfect that our body is the true physical instrument in this world, and Phillip has chosen to manipulate this very medium as an expression of living and dying. “

Stamp hints at a scene she is particularly fond of dancing.

“There is a specific section in this work that explores Phillip’s research at the Alfred Hospital morgue. The work looks at the body after death, and the ritual of mummification. The stark orange sheets against the white floor, and the two bodies naked under fluorescent high-bays, allow us to see the flesh and musculature in the bodies. This is a favourite part of the work for me, why, because it’s the zen moment.”

Merlyn Theatre until March 26

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