Adelaide Dance Theatre’s Festival of Arts performance Supernature finishes with three dancers standing onstage underneath suspended pods which ooze red slime all over their naked bodies. The audience knew this was going to happen, the pre-publicity focused on the red slime, and rightly so. This sticky, tendril-like red slime is not only what binds the dancers, but gels the design concept and vision for the show. In his farewell season with ADT, Garry Stewart brings to a close his trilogy of nature-inspired choreography and in Supernature, he explores our relationship with, and metamorphosis from the primordial slime from which the dancers emerge, and then ultimately get engulfed by.
The set designed by Garry Stewart and Wendy Todd, resembles the dawn of time – a petrified forest dominated by an enormous throbbing and pulsating sea-urchin like mass. All around are sheer fabric tree-like growths; and suspended from the ceiling are the pods which will play a seminal role in the finale. This ancient forest pulses in time ambiguously, but I think, deliberately, to a very industrial soundscape designed by Brendan Woithe. The music reverberates with very deep rumbling bass notes as if to ground the dancers and audiences as deeply as possible into this morass. The industrial sounds perhaps foreshadow that we may revert back to this slimy forest from which we emerged.
Damien Cooper’s lighting design replicates our mythologised dawn of creation with an ominous and at the same time eerie light, (the eye of God?) peering through the misty clouds at the rudimentary life forms below. Flashes of lightning give an impression of the final throes of the Big Bang.
It makes perfect sense that the dancers move precisely and methodically in very measured steps in natural balance with each other and their surroundings. There are times when the dancers shed their human qualities and zoomorphise collectively into a giant insect, crustacean or primitive exoskeletal being. These moments are playfully clever and add humour and levity to the ponderous subject matter. Stewart has assembled dancers who work well collectively yet provide stunningly beautiful duets and trios. James Vu Anh Pham, from the Akram Khan Company has a memorable trio with Zoe Wozniak and Mason Kelly on what looks like a giant lily pad.
The dancers are extraordinary in their very powerful and grounded bodywork. Occasionally they break out, and the choreography resembles breakdance adding to the sense of foreshadowing and foreboding dissonance.
Supernature is a fascinating production which adds to the thread of ideas about our need for connectedness in unstable times being explored in this year’s Adelaide Festival of Arts. The Supernature is perhaps the gel that provides some answers that we are all so desperately seeking as we look for a solution to nature that goes viral and sends us spiralling into a shutdown.
Adelaide Festival Review By Bob Becker