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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 21. 5th September 1973

The Go-Go Girls Of The Avant - Garde

page 18

The Go-Go Girls Of The Avant - Garde

Photo of hands and masks

I dropped into the Memorial Theatre the other night to see 'The New Dance' put on by the Modern Dance Company, or was it 'The Modern Dance' put on by the New Dance Company. I missed the first half, but it can't have been too bad, because the house was still full.

The first item I was confronted with was "Ergon" which began with the house in darkness. Then the curtains opened and a shaft of light from above revealed three people of a variety of sexes jumping up and down with unbended knees. The first impression that came into my head was "This is demented" and though I tried I was unable to rid myself of this feeling through-out the piece. (Moody bugger).

I was warned that the next piece featured Jack Body's "music" so I anticipated it With a heavy heart. And sure enough it droned, as though it had been composed one rainy night in a swamp. I'm sure I heard somebody snoring. Then my eyes focused on a lumpy carpet of black plastic on the stage, and a red table with foam disembodied heads atop it, and in the background a tall tube of loose carboard. And everything began moving, the music jazzed up, hands appeared and gesticulated from an unseeable orgy. Eventually from the cardboard bubbles were spewed, and ribbons and streamers and knives cutting holes. And eventually everything self-destructed. The audience had been sympathetic but uncomprehending in the previous piece, now their applause had a ring about it that said they had grasped something — there's often a moral to be drawn from wanton destruction.

One of the reasons I had thought the "Ergon" piece demented was that the dancers appeared to be no more than go-go girls (and boys) dressed up for the avante garde. They confirmed this in the dance "To P.J." which was to the pop song "killing me softly". I think it was during this piece that I overheard a well-known young cultural entrepreneur declare "I can understand why this goes down well at schools — it's so puerile".

The finale of the show had such a droll title: "The Incredible Adventures of Reginald A. Antwhistle and other nostalgic dances" that it had to be a scream and it was. Well, everybody laughed, and clapped for three curtain calls.

So what can I say? The culture vultures and the bourgeoisie loved it, they turned up in their beards and their hundreds and some of them found clapping inadequate so they stamped on the floor. Kids would get a laugh here and there, and a big giggle in the finale that would make them forget the heavy bits and go home happy. Hell, even yer workers would be tickled more than bored.

But would anybody learn anything? Would the New Dance, liberated from the constraints of the classical ballet, inspire people to enjoy their own bodies and other people's better and more? Not for me, alas, the whole thing was so contrived and pungently "cultural" that it reminded me of a poem which I looked up after the show. The poem turned out to mean something a bit different:

Photo of two dancers

"Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralyzed force, gesture without motion,
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us — if at all — not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men"

There was motion all right, but it was rather form without shape; and colour without shade, that turned me off the New Dance show. It was paralyzed force all right, incoherent because in its guts it had nothing to say, if it had guts at all.