The Zone a force of nature

Annelies Gartner, The West Australian.


Co3’s artistic director Raewyn Hill has been in the midst of a lot of natural disasters.

“I’ve been in Christchurch a number of times when there has been earthquakes, I was in Japan last year when we had three earthquakes, cyclone Yasi, I was in Queensland when all the floods happened and that was just absolutely devastating,” Hill says.

But there has been a common reaction that has followed each adverse events she has witnessed.

“The incredible thing that happens, just the community comes together in a way that you just can’t imagine,” she explains. “This sense of community forms very quickly and without judgment where race, religion and expectation fall away and people return to humanity and they help without question.”

Before her first-hand experiences with weather extremes and earthquakes, Hill was in Paris for a residency at Cite Internationale des Arts.

“I basically had free rein of the museums and galleries of Paris and ended up going to the Pompidou Centre almost every day,” she says.

“I got completely obsessed with surrealist art which was quite interesting because I’m a bit of a Renaissance girl.”

Hill admits she never really understood surrealist art and wouldn’t say she now does.

“They were new insights but they had so many different layers to the creation of it and I think it’s a lot like dance really,” the choreographer explains. “There’s so many layers in one image where a hand is here, a hand is there, a leg is there, and there may have been an original image that will morph into something else so I was just really struck by Dali’s work in particular.”

After her encounters in the French gallery and back in Australia, Hill began seeing surreal images.

“In the middle of cyclone Yasi I looked out of my apartment and across the road there was this big metal sign on one of the shops and it just peeled itself off the side of the building and floated down the middle of the street a bit like a piece of paper,” she says.

“I was like ‘Wow that’s surreal’, and then the two sort of connected for me — I had an overload of images, everyday images that reminded me a lot of the surrealist art in Paris.”

Hill has used surrealist art, natural disasters and the united force of community during a time of crisis to create contemporary dance work The Zone.

The two-walled set designed by Japanese architect Satoshi Okada helps create the energy of the performance.

“Once you get into that environment you’re trapped and so there is an energy that is created inside there that can’t be faked,” she explains.

“Once the dancers are inside those walls that cyclone, that hurricane, that force of energy of nature, happens very easily and then they are so exhausted they have to all get back out again and the only way they can get back out is over the wall.”

Hill feels “incredibly honoured” that Okada agreed to work with her and describes collaborating with Eden Mulholland on the music as “an absolute luxury”.

“Eden is an ex-dancer so he understands movement in a way really from the inside of it,” she says.

“So he has this fantastic sense of timing and also he has the incredible ability to give the right amount of space to dance … it’s group sections and duets and solos and trios and group sections and it just keeps going so there is an immense amount of movement in it.” The 10 dancers not only have a lot of movement to perform they also have to sing.

“They’re (the dancers) always laughing ‘well it’s a Raewyn Hill work it’s hard’ — it’s physically and emotionally exhausting,” she says. “We’re always exploring different ways to be able to find a different language in our bodies and dancers have an extraordinary voice so we thought why don’t we try some singing out and they are absolutely glorious.”

Image by Stefan Gosatti.