Common Ground by Chunky Move was first staged in Melbourne one year ago; in this second coming, the work is now presented within Merlyn Theatre at Malthouse- it’s a great space to stage major dance works, an idea that the venue seems to have picked up – as, alongside Skeleton Tree by Stephanie Lake also playing as part of Dance Massive, last Melbourne Festival, the venue played host to the ambitious work One Infinity by Dance North and Beijing Dance Theatre.
Common Ground is a pas de deux, a duet between two fine dancers, but the choreography, for the most part, only plays within the binary, that we see so often among the Melbourne dance scene- think quasi butoh-esque death shudders meeting, in wild conjecture; movement plucked straight from the mid 80’s New York dance scene – it is beautiful to watch, but does it challenge or push the boundaries of dance as a form? Not really. Common Ground plays safe, and to the predictable, this work knows that it is refined and ‘intelligent’, it flaunts itself, and leaves very little to the audience’s imagination.
And, of course, being a contemporary dance work by a Melbourne company, it is played out on white linoleum flooring under stark lighting, and yes, of course, the dancers take their clothes off. Why is it, that it sometimes feels as though dance makers in Melbourne have been caught on this perpetual loop; repeating the same imagery almost near perfectly each time?
It employs vocal devices, with both performers screaming pointlessly mid-way through the performance, but this goes nowhere – there is no through-line to link this into the work, and as soon as it is included, it is then discarded.
The most disappointing thing is, with such a large player behind the re-staging and the technical abilities of a company and a venue such as Malthouse, you enter the performance with an expectation that the production values are to be top notch – sadly, this work, for all its choreographic nuances, is an experience that is ultimately detracted by such things. Maybe the work would even have been more powerful, least, passable – if they steered away from including such technical device.
As much as this work may seem radical from the outer and through the eye of a non-dance audience, within the context of contemporary dance and within Dance Massive, there is, sadly, nothing too radical about this work. Seeing a work of the classical genre, pure ballet for instance, within Dance Massive- that would be radical.
Take it or leave it, this is a nice performance, the type you could take your grandmother to, maybe. But, it does nothing for the imagination nor the binary of contemporary dance in Melbourne. Playing it safe, is sometime, more often, so very beige.