October 13, 2016
How do I even begin writing about this incredible “physical movement theatre”, that left me perplexed, astonished and moved in ways that are impossible to articulate? As a spectator, watching this gutsy, performative artwork, its discordant moments of discomfort, glee and beauty, was a visceral experience that resonated in a more primal part of my brain. It was like birth. It was like Frankenstein. It was like entering a mad house. The irrational genius of our own creation.
Hanging, membranous sheets of torn and taped plastic, a table, swaying light bulb, a solitary armchair, created a basement scene for Ross McCormack’s frenetic “maker” to sculpt his creations into being: dancers Emily Adams and Xin Ji, who appear as a fused, two-body, co-dependent creature, which he moulds, reshapes, continuously perfects, in a dynamic interplay of power, intimacy, vulnerability and isolation. From feet to mouths, to the fibrous skin on the back of a head, these dancers draw on every imaginable aspect of physical agility. Xin Ji’s facial plasticity is astounding.
The accompanying, reverberating music (or rather, sound sensation) was pivotal in building the weird atmospheric tensions and narrative moments. Towards the end of the performance, there’s a paradigmatic shift with the sudden introduction of drums. I experienced this shift with a sense of relief, realising later, that until now there had been no beat, no structural pulse to tether movement to, strikingly emphasised when the three characters perform to the percussion together a stunningly choreographed, cohesive dance piece. But Triumphs and Other Alternatives seems to me as much about textures, materials, as it is about form, and the life beat itself, introduced with the drum, is beautifully embodied in the final installation, in the return to the maker’s table, and the gentle pulsing of warm, corporeal flesh, like a heart or a pair of lungs.
As an allegory and expression of the creative process itself, I found Triumphs and Other Alternatives remarkable. Its visceral imprint continues to work on me at a cellular level, and for this opportunity – to go “outside the comfort zone” and be ‘changed’ by art – I feel truly privileged.