REVIEW: Pistol Whipped (Sydney Fringe) | The Forum
There’s more to dance than dancing, in the technical sense. I’ve said it before. And I’ll say it again. One can be highly athletic. Flexible. Skilled. Rehearsed. Precise. Passionate. Committed. Confident. Competent. Be adept at any number of moves. And still not really be a dancer. It doesn’t, I don’t believe, take one to know one. You know when you see one. Grace. Carriage. Elegance. Sensuality.
Sharna Baylis, Eva Crainean and Jesse Walkenshaw fulfil all of the technical requirements in bucketloads, but have a way to go in developing the latter, more sublime intangibles: they have practically all the craft one could possibly wish for but, collectively, too little of the art. All three are like carbon that can become diamonds, but which need compaction, crystallisation and time.
Of the three, Crainean is perilously close to showing the maturity of a fully-formed dancer: there is sensuality in her performance; a certain bodily ease.
Crainean, clearly, has vision and immense potential, as a dancer but even moreso, perhaps, as a choreographer. At the moment, however, she seems in a big hurry to get it all out there, where a more patient, dignified, slow-release unfoldment of her ideas would, ironically, get her further, faster.
Walkenshaw is breathtakingly adaptable, veritable putty in the hands of his choreographer, but needs to work on continuity and flow; his moves need to be smoothed and polished. This work is sexy, but he doesn’t yet look sexy doing it. Perhaps, if the work was a little less demanding physically and technically, more focus would be thrown onto aesthetics. The human form is a wondrous, fluid, shapely one and if dance can’t retail that, nothing can.
Pistol Whipped is a raunchy hour of dance, dense with activity, narrative and showy athleticism, to the point of being veritably acrobatic, to a circus-like degree. That’s all very well. But in seeking to show just what and how much she and her dancers can do, Illawarra choreographer, Eva Crainean, while impressing on the one hand, has apparently sought to put everything into and at this work (literally), treating it more like a show-stopping audition than a public performance. There is a little too much ‘look at me!’, as against ‘beautiful, isn’t it?’.
Yes, it’s a showcase for skill and many of her trademark moves are highly-original, quite innovative and cleverly-devised, but less would be so much more. There’s enough material here to fill a season of dance. As it is, it’s a challenging hour. Challenging for the performers, because of its sheer physical intensity. And challenging for the audience, just to keep up, with the pace and complication. Frankly, it’s a little exhausting and, after a time, somewhat repetitive: it could easily be tightened to 45 minutes and be a better work for it.
The soundtrack is superb: cohesive; complementary; sassy. (It’s the second time this week I’ve heard Britney’s Toxic show itself, in other hands, to be a real song.) But less literal adherence to lyrics would be preferable: big ideas, broad brushstrokes, thematic interpretations, allusions, reflections and meditations always work better than strict narratives, for mine, where dance is concerned. As it is, here and there it comes off looking a little secondary-schoolish.
Elsewhere, however, great wit and humour is in evidence, in the form of a pointed mocking of our licentious, chauvanistic, Viagravated culture, including affectations of porn, sadomasochism and sexual postures which make the Karma Sutra look downright unimaginative. Having said that, the work also brings a strongly symbolic feminist element to bear (it’s the women that wield the weapons), as the girls reclaim mastery in love and lust.
In the final analysis, it’s good work. Impressive. Visceral. The costumery and burlesque sensibilities add colour and character. There were a few too many gimmicky props and the lighting was appalling. laughably so: there were many moments when the dancers were performing in areas of the stage which were in almost total darkness. Mood and shadow is one thing, straining to discern form and movement, let alone expression, is quite another.
Given the aspiration and intent of this particular work, I should’ve needed a change of underwear long before it was over. But, as much as this work is about sexuality, it isn’t really sexy. I don’t just want to see dance. As with any other artform, I want to feel it.
For some reason, I’m reminded of advice Paul Hogan, as magician Luigi, offered his offsider when tricks went awry: “Keep a dancin’, Maria!” Experience. Maturity. Discernment. Qualities that sound so orthodox and stuffy, on paper, are the very ones required to bring Dansatori into a scintillating place. They aren’t so very far away.