The always adventurous and ever-experimenting MACHiNENOiSY, co-directed by local dance artists Delia Brett and Daelik, take another risk with their latest full-evening work. Time Machine, created during the company's recent residency at The Dance Centre, and premiering there last night in a co-presentation with the PuSh Festival, pairs five adult dancers with eight child performers. What results, set to an original score by Chris Kelly that is performed live by Kelly, Peggy Lee and Dylan van der Schyff, is a whimsical yet rigorously conceptualized exploration of the porous borders between innocence and experience, art and play, fantasy and reality.
What most struck me about the work is its sensuous and material exploration of shape. At the top of the show, large geometric felt squares and cut-out circles designed by sculptor and visual artist Natalie Purschwitz are arranged into different built structures, only to be knocked down with deliberate glee by both the adults and the kids. This reminded me that one of our earliest developmental processes as children is learning to subvert, through movement, the expected outcomes of cognition and intellection: figuring out how to jam that round peg into a square hole; or adding the last building block to our tower in such a way that it will purposefully topple over. Purschwitz also designed the costumes for the show, including the stretchy black and white biomorphic bits of fabric that several of the adult dancers move inside, at once suggesting classic images from Martha Graham and the shadows kids create on their bedroom walls at night with their hands.
In some cases the children in the show are performing alongside their parents (as in the case of the family Gnam--James, Natalie and Finn), which raises additional questions of inheritance, physical and otherwise. This is something that is brought out in the kinetic juxtaposition and commingling of fully developed and still-growing bodies on stage. Sometimes this mash-up produces obvious contrasts of size and shape--as when the youngest of the performers crawl all over Daelik and pull out the stuffing from his bodybuilder costume. At other times, one is forced to do a double-take--especially when one of the larger of the youth performers is paired with Natalie Lefebvre Gnam, who herself looks like a teenager. That the whole work ends with an arresting visual tableau of many of these differently aged and sized and trained bodies melding into the busily patterned background of one of Purschwitz's large moveable felt pieces only reinforces the point that in the co-conceived world of MACHiNENOiSY, where the spontaneous creativity of children is given equal weight alongside the practised execution of adults, it is impossible to separate decorative embellishment from core structure, wallpaper from wall.