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OzAsia review: Andropolaroid 1.1

Festivals

Japanese dancer Yui Kawaguchi immerses audiences in a sonic and luminous landscape of stark and powerful beauty with this performance of exceptional mastery and expression.

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Fabian Bleisch’s extraordinary lighting design forests an empty black stage with uniform rows of suspended neon tubes. The performance begins with dazzling flashes of light that capture illuminated glimpses out of the dark — as if frozen in photographic still shots — of the futuristically and androgynously white-clad Kawaguchi as she quietly shifts from position to position.

So begins an enthralling 45-minute performance from a dancer seemingly at her peak of physical mastery.

Driven by electronic pulses and industrial beeps, and illuminated by rhythmic flashes of white neon light, Kawaguchi moves with utter control and with an expression — at first — devoid of human spirit, suggesting the movements of an android moved by a mechanical force beyond her own volition.

The soundscape begins to flit and pulse with rhythmic whispers of poetic Japanese which begin with the slow, soft, spoken word: shizuka (quiet), drawing one’s attention into still focus. And then, a succession of rapid sentences and words that repeat and cycle, and which need not be understood to drive attention forwards again: colours that can’t be seen; sighs pent up in one’s back; the onomatopoeic repetition of the sentence: the lustful desire of words which fall, tumble and roll.

German words begin to merge with the Japanese, reminding us of her German-based collaborators, and that she herself is based in Berlin.

The monochrome colours, urgent electronica and Kawaguchi’s relentlessly driven and robotic movements are suddenly and dramatically brought to a halt by a vibrant, red-hooded garment that drops from above. What was contained and restrained now begins to feel more expansive, both in movement, light and sound, the red-hooded top acting somehow as a conduit for a new agency Kawaguchi did not have before.

Softer and organic snatches of piano and violin merge with rhythmic electronic techno beats, suggesting a transformation; the previously blank canvas of her face now flits with animated human expression, with smiles, with recognition; her movements suggesting the warmth of human interaction which gradually become more frenzied until, as if short-circuited, she grimaces and jerks to a standstill.

The final moments of this outstanding production evoke a mood of gentle hope; that in a dystopian world, human warmth will prevail. At turns unsettling, humorous and uplifting, this is an unforgettable performance. Another OzAsia show that should not be missed.

The final performance of Andropolaroid 1.1 is at the Space Theatre tonight (November 10). Read more InDaily and CityMag OzAsia Festival stories and reviews here.

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