Together As One

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By Christopher Talbot (@CDTalbot)

 

St Kilda dancer and choreographer Jonathan Homsey tells St Kilda News about his Melbourne Fringe Festival Show, Together as One.

LUB-DUB, LUB-DUB. The room has a heartbeat and the audience are watching voyeuristically like flies on the wall. The lighting is low and a statuesque male dancer chops and weaves with precision; his deliberate breaths puncture the silence and his feet slap and graze against the wooden floor.

There is a calm, warm, female voice-over:

“The power went out, but we didn’t lose ours. We didn’t lose anything. Everything that mattered was right there, right in that dark, empty, beaten-down, rugged warehouse.”

Together as One, the debut feature from choreographer Jonathan Homsey, is quite simply Melbourne Fringe at it’s best. Raw, intimate and almost uncomfortably close; it pushes the boundaries of contemporary dance, creating a living, breathing art installation.

Two rows of chairs flank the micro performance space- making it more like a catwalk. As the show unfolds you witness the reactions of the audience on the other side of the space; feeling their emotions.

The dancers are close enough for the audience to touch; so much so you can almost feel their breath.

Homsey sits in the front row, intermittently glancing at the audience to gauge reaction. A faint hue lights up his face; he is Zen-like but beaming.

The sliding glass door to the venue becomes the front door to a ‘70s bohemian share house; making the audience feel like they’re inside the apartment. Many scenes begin outside the door and you feel slightly uneasy watching the intimate interactions between seven young friends “as they explore the light and shade of life’s lessons”.

Together as One thoughtfully examines the feelings of youth during the political and cultural turmoil of Australia’s 1975 Constitutional Crisis using dance, storytelling, music and voice.

Despite the political unrest, it’s a simpler time that exists before technology; when people connected without electronic distraction.

Homsey drew inspiration for this from his own life.

“I was visiting my hometown of San Diego and all my friends were sitting around the table during dinner on their cell phones.

“I dreamt of a time when people didn’t have cell phones and had more conversation. I wanted to transport back in time when communication was more direct,” Homsey recalls.

Homsey researched meticulously for the show, even conducting interviews with people growing up in the ‘70s to ensure a genuine feeling of nostalgia.

He also called on the expertise of choreographer and mentor Wendy Smith who is an expert in the Skinner Release Technique- a training method that utilises voice, music and imagery as stimuli for improvised, unstructured movement.

“Wendy provided her help to give the dancers the body awareness that the 1970s was all about.

“Dancers in this postmodern era were all about feeling the movement and we spent a lot of time training how to really feel movement and give the show more texture,” Homsey said.

It’s this attention to detail that catapults this show into another realm.

The show stops half way and the audience are told to switch sides to gain “a different perspective”. The move catches the audience off-guard, but changing seats leaves you refreshed and reenergised.

A story is gently recounted as the dancers pop and shift around the space. The romantic, sunny, melodic words are a stark contrast to the effervescence of the choreography.

Homsey has come a long way to bring his show to Melbourne audiences. Born in Hong Kong and raised in California, he forged a successful career in the US as a hip-hop dancer before making his way to the Victorian College of the Arts to complete a dance degree. He then completed a master’s degree in Arts Management in 2012 and it was during his final year that Together as One was born.

A bequest from his late grandmother allowed him to fulfil his dream to get Together as One off the page and into reality.

A troupe of superb local dancers – Jack May, Robert McLean, Briana Cohen, Briarna Longville, Ashleigh Kiven, Lauren Drago and Kino McHugh – make up Homsey’s “dream cast”. Each selected for their unique strengths and quirky techniques, gelling together like one living breathing entity.

“I knew I wanted the show to be about humans moving, instead of a display of athletic movement, so I looked for dancers known for stylistic, grounded movement,” Homsey said.

“I am honoured to be a conductor for some of the most beautiful living instruments I have ever known.”

The cast re-create Homsey’s complex choreography with a precision and confidence that astounds the audience.

The moves alternate from strutting and strobe-like to dreamy and fluid in the blink of an eye.

At one point they paint each other with fluorescent paint, at another they play musical instruments and scream. The variety is both astounding and enthralling for those looking on.

Robert Mclean provided a standout performance with a writhing shirtless solo against the glass door outside the venue. The audience watch in complete awe as his character struggles with his demons, thrashing up against the glass. At this point the room is in complete darkness, with Mclean lit up from behind by a buzzing fluorescent bulb.

It’s no wonder Homsey won the Melbourne Fringe Festival’s Best Emerging Producer Award for 2013. His ability to pull such a complex show together displays a level of maturity and forethought far beyond his 24 years- definitely one to watch.

 

Catch Jonathan Homsey and a cast of Melbourne’s best up and coming young dancers in Fractious this November.

Menagerie presents Fractious; a curated presentation of three works by Rachel Heller-Wagner, Timothy Walsh and a commission by James Welsby.

Full of vigor and interested in breaking boundaries, Menagerie endeavours to search for immersive performance. Set in Revolt Artspace, the triple bill moves through different modes of being fractious.

Walsh explores this physically through his cyclone of repetitive movement in “Remind Me Again in 24 Hours,” while Heller-Wagner & Welsby explore emotional and political conflicts respectively with “Where Does It All Go” & “Folkdance & Dissent.”

 

VENUE: Revolt Art Space 12 Elizabeth Street Kensington

VIC DATES: 7-9 November

TIME: 7:30 (60 min)

TICKETS: Full: $22.50

TO BOOK: Visit menagerie.org.au or call Revolt Art Space (03)93762115

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