The human body at its most profound


It takes a lifetime of work to choreograph like Russell Dumas.

Russell Dumas, Dancehouse, March 20-24

Anyone who cares about dance in the broadest sense should see Russell Dumas' Cultural Residues 2020. It is a learning experience: this is what dancers can do in the hands of a brilliant artist. It is the human body at its most profound.

Brisbane-born Dumas has had an unusual professional trajectory, starting out as a musical comedy performer in the 1960s with that behemoth of Australian commercial theatre, J.C. Williamson, before moving to England where he danced for a number of venerable ballet companies including the Royal Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater.

Anyone who cares about dance … should see Russell Dumas' Cultural Residues 2020.

However, it was in the freedom and humanism of New York's postmodern dance that he found his spiritual home, dancing with Trisha Brown and Twyla Tharp, and returning to Australia in 1976 to disseminate what he learnt through his Sydney-based company Dance Exchange, and later the Dancelink program.

Today, Dumas' influence can be seen in everything from the physical vocabulary of local choreographers such as Lucy Guerin or Becky Hilton, to the enduring influence of New York on generations of dance artists.

Cultural Residues 2020 is a semi-improvised collection of reworked duets and trios, some decades old, on nine mostly very young dancers. It is performed in silence, in slacks, lit only by a film projection, footage of dancers Josephine McKendry and Nick Sabel circa early 1990s, dancing many of the same choreographies.

Ostensibly, the piece is about representation and fake news, but it really is just an ode to the beauty of uncomplicated, natural movement. Tender balances, walks and runs and lunges and rolls, bodies folding in on one another and straightening again – nothing acrobatic or spectacular takes place.

The thing to look at is the quality of the movement: fluid, sensuous but not overtly erotic, with a measured rhythm, and somehow always cantilevered so that every move is evenly paced and seems to require no effort at all.

It is simple and unaffected, but it takes a lifetime of practice to be able to move like this.

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