In recent times, we’ve seen a number of big production companies use different forms of augmented reality to pump up the wow factor of art “experiences”. Van Gogh Alive brought digital and 3D re-imaginings of the great artist’s work to North Adelaide in 2021, while Ouchhh Studio headlined last year’s Illuminate Adelaide with an AI extravaganza that exploded Renaissance artworks into thousands of colour-bubbles, spattering them across the floor and all four walls of a vast purpose-built warehouse.
While these productions are visually and aurally stunning, the quiet impact of the original art tends to get smothered beneath the technological pizazz. Not so with Electric Dreams: Torrent,where the dance, music, poetry and on-screen visuals are held in careful equilibrium.
Inside the gallery space of a chic new bar on Light Square, the twinkling stars of the night sky dance across a large square screen (the backdrop to the performance area) and a further horse-shoe-shaped screen that cocoons the audience space.
The image changes to a desert-scape when dancer Stefaan Morrow enters, festooned in tiny illuminated tracking markers. He moves and the screen image of his silhouette moves in synchronicity. The silhouette contains a shimmering mass of copper flakes that are showered across the desert sand whenever Morrow spins. He is joined by a second dancer (Clementine Benson) and as their movements intertwine, their on-screen counterparts merge and dissolve into one another, their pirouetting bodies morphing into dust devils as a rising sun floods the screen with red-orange light.
The dancers’ movements are calm and fluid throughout, even when the on-screen action seems frenetic. This clever choreography, by South Australian Lewis Major, allows the motion to be accurately tracked on the screen. CGI by Ben Carlin and John Ingle completes the magic.
But the real star of the show is the new spoken word performance piece from Yankunytjatjara/Kokotha poet Ali Cobby Eckermann. Eckermann’s elegant, impactful truth-telling has received both national and international acclaim, and Torrent is yet another testament to the power of her work.
“The void is still inside me,” she recites as the background darkens and the image of the dancer silvers and begins to drip. “My dreams trembling of long ago / when humans knew the language of water,” she continues, with the image rippling, flowing, bursting into wild splashes.
The performance is pretty short – barely 30 minutes. And since the effects of the horseshoe screen can only be fully experienced from the back, those sitting at the front miss out on the more immersive aspects of the show (meteors hurtling forwards onto the stage screen, for example).
Nonetheless, this is an intimate conversation between dance, poetry, music and technology that’s well-worth eavesdropping on.
Electric Dreams: Torrent is showing at The Light Room at Light ADL @ West Village until March 18.
Written by Alison Flett