-by Kelly Beneforti
(Photo credit: Lorna Sim)
Canberra Museum and Gallery, Gallery 4
Wednesday March 19
The audience are active participants in a new work by Natalie Abbott, Janine Proost and Amelia McQueen, and from the beginning we are invited, coaxed and drawn into its making. Elevate demands that the performers stay with us constantly in the present while still achieving the structures around which the work is built.
Each audience member is led into the space where the three performers ask the question “What do you expect?” The glass walls of the gallery are soundproof, which allows the audience left waiting outside to observe everything taking place but remain unaware of the question until entering. Inside there is a sense that we are initiated into a collective understanding and follow the trio as they engage in improvised and continually re-imagined responses to each person’s ‘expectations’.
Understandably, there is apprehension for some in the audience, while others appear completely comfortable. There are also those who drop their guard without realising that they momentarily become the most enthralling performer present.
Once everyone has been brought into the space, the work continues through a number of experiences. This includes the trio being birthed through a glitter sheet, carrying audience members through the space, and undertaking a frenetic attempt to physically experience something akin to elevation in all possible manifestations. It takes time to move through the stages of the work but we are involved as more than just observers in many ways, which tempers a need to understand what’s happening. We are spoken to, lightly touched or held, asked to write, and then partnered with another audience member to speak and yell the words.
As each new relationship between audience and performers is negotiated, the boundaries of exchange become elastic, as no one holds complete control over the performance. All are invested and vulnerable in the same moment. Abbott, Proost and McQueen use their bodies, voices, costumes, the space, and each other to deal with this fluid territory, encompassing everything from literal to theatrical to inexplicable physicalised translations of the experience at hand.
When the trio exit the space at the conclusion of the work, they even give us an opportunity to share an audience-only connection. Standing in torchlight, we have been positioned into a circle linked by our outstretched arms. We become the individual remnants and collective heart of the performance and have the potential to realise our own experience of the final instructions to “Expand. Elevate.”
Abbott, Proost and McQueen are generous and sincere throughout the performance, which encourages the audience to be equally present, even if through confusion or hesitation. For one night only Elevate was like being inside a live and non-repeatable experiment where together we were simultaneously the content and the results.
A VCA Dance graduate and 2013 ArtStart recipient, Kelly Beneforti performs, teaches and choreographs in diverse contexts across the country. Originally from Darwin, she continues to spend time in urban and remote parts of the Northern Territory, notably with Tracks Dance Company. Kelly also maintains professional relationships in Tasmania and Melbourne. In Canberra, Kelly participated in the Soft Landing program with QL2 and last year performed in No Place, an immersive installation work by independent artist Adelina Larsson. This is Kelly’s first experience in review writing, however, she was involved in You Are Here in 2013 as a performer.