Unsettling, yes, but don’t let the title put you off.
Image: DANCENORTH Rainbow Vomit, performers l-r Harrison Hall, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan, Georgia Rudd, Mason Kelly - photographer Amber Haines.
Dancenorth’s latest production is as rich in connotation as it is sumptuous to the senses, and while created as a teaser for young people, it will be the combination of imagination, beautiful confusion and viscerality that will etch itself into the memory of every appreciator of contemporary dance who sees it.
Amazing in its technicolour and playfulness, Rainbow Vomit is a thought provoker about the pervasive influence of technology, and whether digital media is stifling brain development or developing neural pathways to creativity not yet realised. It’s with this inquiry in mind that choreographers Kyle Page and Amber Haines speculate with amusement and insight where such possibilities can lead as we continue to embark upon the ever-changing landscape in this brave new world.
The success of the performance is meticulously hard-wired in the execution of its concept, though the illumination of meaning means that the audience isn’t spoon-fed either. For instance, the work was devised as way of fostering dance appreciation in young people, yet there is not one electronic device to be seen in the entire performance - besides, the latest gadgetry would be dull distraction and poor competition for a production like this.
The sceneography provides an operating environment within which the choreography seems spontaneous and enjoyably haphazard, and it offers just enough visual and kinetic narrative for a child to comprehend what is playing out before them. Clearly, children are smarter and more techno savvy than we think, and if the abstractions, such as the allusions to techno-tribalism, create a ‘systems error’ in the mind of the viewer, the limbic system will over-ride and the experience will still be immediate.
Costumes are mostly restricted to loose black/white jumpsuits that afford neutrality to the dancers caught up in the on/off, stop/start world in which they are tuning into or dropping out of with constant frequency. The score seems to program the dancers’ every move with its mix of music and sampling. The lighting, at times technical and at others deceptively simple, reaches an unexpected intensity when, during the one time in the performance the dancers enter the auditorium to provide its spectators a low-tech apparatus to heighten their experience, colour is introduced in a most startling and breath-taking way. Thereafter, the audience enters the inner world of its own fantasyland, with no need of lysergic acid.
A comment to make, here, is that Rainbow Vomit, as an accomplishment of all the advances in contemporary dance, stands on its own two feet. No amount of technical wizardry can compensate for lacklustre choreography, and even without the interaction of the brilliance in lighting and special effects, the excellence of Page and Haines’ abilities are conspicuous and their dancers are well prepared.
The show starts with the ensemble of five dancers each seated on a transparent Swiss ball, transfixed before the glow of an unseen visual display monitor. Expressionless and caught in the zone with whatever synaptic transfers might be occuring within them, together they pulsate like one body of plasma as it calibrates to data from an unknown source so as to charge itself for the performance it’s about to undertake. Sometimes the movements are discharged with feverish disorientation, as if responsive to a power surge, but in every case, the energy of the dancers is sythesised with skill, and all of the moves are executed with microchip precision.
While the ending to the 40-minute spectacle is truly a mind-blower in sight and sound, a symptomatic motif warranting its eruption is necessary to fuse the whole composition. The symbolism of the unicorn, in this respect, seems a late introduction and could make a subliminal appearance earlier in order to avoid a disconnection in ideas. That said, hysteria manifests in the most exciting ways, and when least expected.
Rainbow Vomit is sure to run its program again and again after it saves itself to your mental hard drive. It will make you think twice the next time you interact with technology of any kind, and will, in all likelihood, give the children you take with you the aspiration of becoming a robot… Whichever way you look at it, the diversity of sensory input and cleverness in melding elements of dance and theatre that this performance provides is eidetic and sensational, and is guaranteed to be a hit for all who take the trip to see it.
Four out of five stars
Choreography: Kyle Page & Amber Haines
Performers: Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan and Georgia Rudd
Composer: Alisdair Macindoe
Set & Lighting Design: Govin Ruben
Costume Design: Andrew Treloar
Rigger: Murray Dempsey
School of Arts, Townsville
11 – 16 April
First published on