[Beat] Depth of Field



Depth of Field is the new work from Anouk Van Dijk, Artistic Director of Chunky Move, inspired by the gloriously soft balmy weather we enjoy here in the autumn months. “Autumn in Melbourne is the most beautiful time of the year,” says Netherlands native Van Dijk. “The colour of the sky, the mildness of the air…I come from a county where those sorts of days are rare, so to have that is such a pleasure. You see it all around you, it’s uplifting.” As well as the soft weather in autumn, the season’s relative predictability allows her the opportunity to choreograph a dance to be performed outdoors. “I’ve wanted to create a work for outdoors for a long time,” she says. “My first show in Melbourne, Act of Now, was part of the Melbourne Festival; it was performed at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. For that time of year it was the perfect place: October is a capricious time of year so the audience had the sense of being outdoors but it was also was sheltered. March is a much more stable time of year – if it’s possible for weather in Melbourne to be stable. March is the most stable month so here’s my chance to really go outside.”

The performance, by Chunky Move dancers James Vu Anh Pham, Niharika Senapati and Tara Jade Samaya, will take place outside in the Coopers Malthouse Forecourt. Van Dijk hopes that the work will encourage audiences to notice the small, seemingly insignificant things from everyday life on the city streets, to take a longer look, as it were. “We can see the movement of the city,” she explains. “From the point of view of the audience, where the dance will be performed, the depth of field means you can see the high-rises in the distance, closer, you can see a construction site, there’s traffic on foot, traffic in the distance, from the forecourt you can see people walking dogs, people jogging, movement from co-incidental by-passers. The time of the performance is close to sunset, that moment where the light on the highways pops on, that happens during the show. Depending on the weather, whether it’s overcast or not, you get that little bit of the last sunlight. Things are different depending on whether it’s a windy or cloudy day, there’s a different atmosphere – so the dance will have its own life determined by the elements. There can be a change of sky, from blinding sunlight to the grey city environment, so the scope of our perception can change, you will look at things that otherwise you might not have noticed and that’s part of the experience. These changes will affect our dance, the dancers juggle with these elements, with the gravel, with dust, with co-incidental by passers. The chosen spot is to warm up your eye. The eye will wander, the eye asks ‘where’s the action? What is/is not, the performance?’”

Beat recalls seeing a dance performance that took place on the Federation Square carpark, the asphalt black and slippery on a rainy night. You couldn’t help but worry about the danger of injury to the performers. For dancers used to performing on special floors in studios, there must be a challenge in taking a work outdoors while keeping the dancers safe. Van Dijk has it covered. “They all have special gear and they wear it at rehearsal time,” she says. “They have special footwear, padding on knees, elbows, jackets; they can strip it off when they get too hot. They look like characters from Mad Max, although that’s not the aesthetic we’re going with. They also have special sunglasses to keep out the sun’s rays – we are fully embracing the circumstances, in terms of what we’re making, in terms of physical language we’re embracing the environment. It looks fearless.” Van Dijk has developed a technique of her own for the Chunky Move company, giving her dancers added protection from injury. “Counter-technique is a training method I developed,” she explains. “The dancers can work recklessly on site without getting hurt.” Recklessly? “It will look like they are moving recklessly. It means they can hit the ground without getting hurt. They distribute their weight, so the impact is very little. It looks like they’re flying, sliding or skimming. The skills they learn they can take into rehearsal and into performance.”

Although in an open public space, audiences will get to enjoy a sense of intimacy in Depth of Field. “The audience works with headsets so it enables them to come very close and have private experiences, it doesn’t disturb by-passers on the street. There’s no sound blaring out at pedestrians,” Van Dijk explains. “The sound system is designed by Marco Cher-Gibard, a great sound designer, and the music is by composer Ben Frost, we’re using some of his tracks to create the sound environment. The sound will help you navigate the depth of field as well.”

As well as movement, location, sound and light all are given weight in Depth of Field. “Twilight – it’s really otherworldly,” continues Van Dijk. “As the sun sets the wind often settles too. Or the cloud dissipates, and for a second the sun reappears. The birds start up then calm down. Around 7pm to 7.45pm I notice ‘hungry cars.’ People are hungry, on their way home from work, they’re edgy, they need to go home. At around 7.23pm, the cars slow down; it’s a different kind of traffic. In the arts precinct, you’re seeing a different kind of street traffic, there’s shift in perspective, different behavior. People are visiting friends, walking dogs, playing with their kids. It’s a special time of the day to savour and we allow the audience to savour it too.”

Original Source: Beat

Depth of Field
Chunky Move
Fri 6 – Sat 14 March
The Coopers Malthouse, Forecourt