The season of Excavate: A two man dig presented by the Australian Choreographic Centre received a preview and two reviews. Below are the scans of each - you can click to get a bigger version as an image. The text is also at the bottom of the post.
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Passion, Indignity, Distress and Devotion
Excavate: A two man dig
Reviewed by Celeste Tripodi
The Canberra Review, May 25 2006
Dance is a form of baring one’s soul. Even the most introverted person can shine through dance. When the dance is improvisational, something else happens - you reveal your innermost naturalness through the external body.
A white screen at the back of the stage exposed a single sentence, “What you risk reveals what you value.” I saw this when Corbet and Lehrer performed “Excavate” in September of last year but this time it had an effect on me. In this one sentence I saw where Lehrer and Corbet found their strength.
“Excavate” has been an evolving journey for the duo who have danced and performed together for over 12 years. I arrived with the unconscious intention to compare this show to what I had previously witnessed, but within the first moments I knew this would be an impossible task. It was a completely different performance.
Lehrer and Corbet’s unravelling of character was elevated and sublime in expression. They revealed later that they don’t go on stage with an overt meaning. It happens however it happens, and every individual draws something unique and special from their experience.
Part of the excitement and appeal is that the performers are also unaware, themselves, of where the journey will take them. “You are yourself,” as Lehrer states. Well, Lehrer and Corbet are themselves poetical. There’s the sensation of intimacy as they listen deeply to each other’s bodies. They play with sensation, timing and listening, but mostly with relationships and the hidden emotions and language within them. There is no fairytale happy ending to the journey of a relationship and they don’t pretend that there is. It is a process of passion, indignity, distress and above all devotion.
As a show that “came from nothing”, as Corbet puts it, he and Lehrer have certainly built a rhythmical whirlwind.
Man’s risky manoeuvres
Review by Larry Ruffell.
The Canberra Times. Thursday May 18, 2006.
With any improvised work done by experienced artists, it is difficult to distinguish past experience from new directions without prior knowledge of the artists’ work, and so it was with thie performance.
There were moments where David Corbet and Jacob Lehrer were clearly taking some risks as evidenced by some hesitation before embarking on a lift or a fall, while an occasional facial grimace suggested some pain was involved.
At the same time, there were some thematic movements which recurred throughout the performance, and there was structure, dynamic pace, full use of the space in all three dimensions, and the use of a little soft instrumental musical accompaniment, all of which indicated premeditation.
Such a dichotomy might not matter were it not promoted as “spontaneous” or “real-time” choreography, implying risk as well as limitation, and on that basis, it was an impressive achievement.
Performed mostly in silence in a bare studio, except for a small screen onto which some key statements were projected, Corbet and Lehrer alternated between individual and duo passages, the initiative taken first by one and then the other.
It was when they came together that it became interesting to watch as they each switched from active to passive, from actor to reactor.
It reminded me a little of and American group called Pilobolus whose hallmark was sustained, rather gymnastic progressions. Similarly, there was no attempt at expression or representation in the narrative sense, so the performance took on a dream-like quality, of unknown figures moving without our knowing why.
The statements tended to compound the incomprehension, starting with “What we risk reveals what we value”. Does it? Would you say that of a young driver overtaking on the brow of a hill?
In the end I admired the trust and rapport between the two men, and the structure they brought to a minimally planned hour of joint movement. I thought of the two Beaconsfield miners whose mutual support probably helped save their lives, which gave some (unintended) meaning to the title of this performance.
August/September 06, page 48.
Excavate: A Two Man Dig
The Australian Choreographic Centre
Reviewed by Margaret Jolley
David Corbet and Jacob Lehrer choose to describe their performances as instances of “real time choreography”. They feel the word “improvisation” may carry inappropriate connotations of flippancy. Their perception of their method as seriously strenuous – both physically and mentally – is reflected in the title of the piece – Excavate: A two man dig. The obvious reference here is to manual labour – an allusion carried through in the costuming (Yakka trousers and work shirts). But the title also reflects their avowed psychological task of “unearthing the past… brushing away layers on themes of relationship, history, intimacy and human nature”, an exploration that draws on their 10 year collaboration.
Given the nature of their work, the performance that I viewed was a one-off, a unique version of a set of two man digs. It began in a silence that lasted almost half of the 50 minutes, followed by some gentle orchestral music. A basic structure of alternating solo and duo episodes emerged, the latter proving the most engaging. In these interactive passages, both an arresting physicality and the intrigue of real time choreography came to the fore. The two bodies blended, responding to each other at an apparently intuitive level, at times bearing each other’s weight with a physical endurance that denoted a heavy psychological burden. The solo passages suffered a little in comparison, with less interesting and more repetitive movement vocabulary, moments of undisciplined technique, and the effort of constant invention proving a more noticeable strain.
The emotional tone of this performance was intense and unremittingly dark. A sort of narrative seemed suggested – the portrayal of a relationship filled with the angst of dependency. The intimacy of this relationship was laid bare, giving a sense of voyeurism as we witnessed a grown man struggling to cradle another in his arms.
A small screen with projected text provided the sole element of set. For me, the phrases such as “what you risk reveals what you value”, “you can’t help but worry”, and “frontal bone, cheek bone, mandible” were an irritating and somewhat banal distraction. Despite this, I was initially drawn quite deeply into the performance – a noteworthy achievement given the sparsity of design, music and lighting effects. The focus of Corbet and Lehrer, and their visceral response to each other was initially riveting. But unfortunately this didn’t last. It seemed to me that the portrayed relationship and the source of the choreographic ideas had both run their course well before the performance ended.
Apparently the music and/or text may change from night to night. The obvious question is – just how much does the choreography change? How many moves are unique, spontaneously fashioned on the spot, and how many, if any, are “spontaneously” drawn from a (perhaps even subconsciously compiled) store of rehearsed sequences? Does this matter? How should the assessment of real time choreography differ from that for a rehearsed performance? Such questions provide serious fodder for debate.
Excavate: A two man dig was presented as part of the Australian Choreographic Centre’s “Ricky Manoeuvres” program. The word “risk” also featured in the projected text. Contact improvisation is indeed a risky business, with performers stripped of the safety net of premeditation and rehearsal. This element of risk without doubt adds edge to the performances. The downside is that it precludes the structural coherence and technical assurance that result from planning, rehearsing and editing. Improvisation may also provide performers with a valuable path to self-knowledge. While this might be rewarding for them, it does not always lead to a satisfying audience experience.
Two for one
Zsuzsanna Soboslay sees David Corbet & Jacob Lehrer
Are there really It and Other? Or really no It and Other.
Zhuangzi, Inner Chapters, 4th century BC
Two bodies, David Corbet and Jacob Lehrer, traverse the darkened space from separate sides of the room. There are qualities that reflect the dancers’ histories: the studios of Melbourne, London, Sydney and companies such as Strange Fruit, DV8, and Born in a Taxi. Their bodies are marked—and marked very well—by these practices, bullets marked by the calibre of the barrels through which they’ve been fired.
Full text available online by clicking here.