Review: DeCOI: Conversations, Observations, Improvisations; Moonah Arts Centre (TAS)

Dutch dance artist Frank van de Ven is joined by Tasmanian performers and musicians in an intriguing collaboration.
Review: DeCOI: Conversations, Observations, Improvisations; Moonah Arts Centre (TAS)

Performers Frank van de Ven, Wendy Morrow and Mike Hornblow. Image supplied.

Moonah Arts Centre hosted visiting dance artist Frank van de Ven for the final events of a tour to Tasmania, during which he offered movement labs in Body Weather and collaborated with local dancers and musicians.

With Katerina Bakatsaki, van de Ven leads Body Weather Amsterdam, a platform for training and performance in the philosophically based practice, which connects body with art, geology and landscape. From 1983 to 1991, van de Ven was a member of Tanaka’s Maijuku Performance Company in Japan. Since 1995 he has undertaken various Body/Landscape projects including the annual, interdisciplinary Bohemiae Rosa Project in Prague and runs training and performs across Europe, USA, New Zealand and Australia.


In Hobart, he is joined by dance improvisers Wendy Morrow (Hobart) and Mike Hornblow (Launceston), both experienced practitioners with very individual approaches to invoking movement. This is obvious as the structure of the sharing begins with a short improvisation from each of the dancers and the three equally diverse musician/improvisers.

Morrow moves with fine hands linked, opening her arms in a welcoming gesture and presenting a poised leg, an image to which she returns several times. In contrast, van de Ven introduces his exploratory preference through morsels of movement and playful vocal noises. Hornblow also uses the sounds of his body by slamming and shuffling his whole body and propelling himself with isolated shoulder drops.

Long strong strokes of a bow on metal and clashing cymbals introduce the various instruments at the disposal of percussionist Tom Robb.  Damien Kingston, on the other hand, crouches over his amplifier, teasing sounds from clashing combinations of peddles and strings, while Alethea Coombe freely traverses the space with her violin. Their presence is key for the dancers and defines the playground for the next hour of performance.

With the simple structure building to duos, each dancer is paired with a musician, offering direct responses to the static of the guitar and the crescendo of the percussion. Van de Ven is comic with twitching head and neck and air guitar; sliding across the raised platform and dragging himself along the space below. Hornblow is noisy in his impact with surfaces; knees, feet and back collide with the hard floor; his body segments as it shifts across the space.

Akin to having ants under the skin, the sounds of each musician seem to inhabit both Hornblow and van de Ven, but Morrow moves on through. Finely balanced, she tunes into the rise and fall of the violin. Slowly fingers cross and spread over the face, into the hairline and above the head. Energy is held in the negative spaces; like insect and prey, Morrow and Coombe are drawn to each other.

Diverse practices and processes are evident in this collaboration, but the fascination for the audience is in the developing communication between the participants. As the piece builds, through trios to an all-in collaboration, the understanding between each artist develops in front of us. The musicians become more physically involved in the interaction with the dancers who lean on, over and around them and take over some of the instruments. The erratic explorations and overt gestures of the men continue to contrast with Morrow’s calm. Although still quite independent, the dancers interact more and find some common vocabulary.

Stillness and silence pauses proceedings; then, with a wicked laugh van de Ven reignites the improvisation. Together now, communication continues as everyone contributes to a cacophony of sound and movement with Morrow seemingly conducting proceedings. An ending is found and a chance to discuss the experience is shared with the audience.

DeCOI: Conversations, Observations, Improvisations
Frank van de Ven, Wendy Morrow, Mike Hornblow
Musicians: Damien Kingston, Tom Robb, Alethea Coombe
2 July 2019 
Moonah Arts Centre, Moonah TAS
Tickets $10    


Lesley Graham

Tuesday 9 July, 2019

About the author

Lesley Graham has been active in dance and dance education for over 30 years, and has previously written for The Mercury and Dance Australia.