Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Toxic White Elephant Shock: Review by Francesca Horsley (Danz Quarterly, NZ Winter Issue 2009)

Bad girl Alexa Wilson loves to kick sand - the more our eyes smart the better. Toxic White Elephant Shock, her first full scale work, was no exception - at times a violently jarring commentary of 21st century living and the banalities of contemporary life, it lived up to her turbulent, gritty best. Part of MAU Forum, it was a hilarious, stockcar demolition rout, a joy ride of subversive images.

A multi-layered work, it was an amalgam of episodes, strung along an unravelling stream of consciousness, like a bad dream. Scenes resembled clips from reality TV, the gauche glare of home movies, the tawdriness of alleyway squabbles in an inner-city early Sunday morning, the grasping melodrama of Desperate Housewives, the under-developed plot lines of a B-grade movie.

The movement sequences went from hip swivelling, kick boxing, ‘take that mister’ vocabulary that melded hip-hop grit, capoeira swings to tentative, soft edged investigations – always charismatic to watch.

Her themes covered the current preoccupation with disease; the hedonistic abandon of wild partying oblivious to the piled up debris; tribal vagaries of a dysfunctional community turning in on itself, intent on finding a ‘beautiful’ victim. ‘So are you on the programme cover? What makes you so special?’ ; the banality of chat shows where interviewees fielded questions, their answers readily tripping off slick mouths, all the while crossing and uncrossing their limbs. A dancer is folded into a box, labelled, ready for shipment – to be opened - where?

The vast MAU Corbans Estate stage was cool and drafty, despite the summer humidity, and the uncompromisingly black void and bare stage almost dwarfed the six female dancers. Despite hurling themselves at the audience in tribal frenzy, uttering primal screams, their femininity appeared precariously poised in the black, almost numbing space. The polarity of aggression and vulnerability was further heightened when they stripped naked. The female body was bombarded, inscribed with graffiti, toxic emblems emblazoned on their permeable softness.

As a vocal accompanist, Matt Brennan was an equally valid mesmeric performer who conjured up a riotous percussive commentary – his elastic mouth wrapped around a microphone, uttering guttural slurpings, strident whoops, discordant raspings, delicate murmurings - all the while strumming, plucking, banging or shaking all manner of instruments, many his own concoctions. Composer Charlotte 90 provided subtle mediating musical glue.

Alexa has bravely shaped her own intrinsic voice. She targets our conceits and the rough, untidy journey she takes us on is always perceptive and unsettling. Fulfilling a vital role of the artist, she is always a force to be reckoned with.

Residency with Mau funded by CNZ

This was a 2 month residency with Mau Dance Ltd at Corban Estate and was presented as part of the MAUForum March 09. It is my aim to develop and tour this work internationally.