Review | Laura Money
Tracing the human experience through its journey from primordial slime to the teeming collective gracing this planet today, Archives of Humanity meditates on the essentialism of human life, distilling it to its core in a tumultuous and dynamic expression that weaves its pattern in a jawdropping choreographed piece that speaks to the primal self and what it means to be a community. This show is perhaps Co3‘s most ambitious project – a culmination of Artistic Director Raewyn Hill‘s stunning vision and the company’s unwavering capacity to impress. It stares humanity directly in the eye and charts its messy yet hopeful journey with over twenty diverse dancers performing their guts out, stripping back life itself to its core in a viscerally present work. It’s perfectly impressive.
As the piece is a representation of migratory movements throughout human existence, one begins with an immersive walk through the stunningly unique set. Created by the community, the Bird Makers Project saw people create black birds from personal garments that hold memories or meaning as a way to connect during isolation. The resulting exhibition is a beautiful collection of stories and expressions of emotion by the WA community – their thoughts and stories suspended above in a soaring and hopeful act of transcendence. Journeying through this collective accumulation of life moments, one has the opportunity to dip their toe in the water by merely being present amongst the works or diving in, fully immersing themselves into these shared experiences with an app that allows for more insights into the project. After filling oneself up emotionally, the audience takes its seat and awaits the natural extension of the migration story. The stage is set – a deceptively simple square of compact builder’s sand resembling a giant rodeo – and a ripple of excitement washes over the crowd. We are about to see something special.
The strength of this work is its simplicity – designed, devised, and directed by Raewyn Hill, her intuitive design skills knit perfectly with the choreography and imagery that convey a playful yet intense piece of physical theatre unafraid to stretch the soul to capacity. Drawing lines in the sand symbolically traces humanity’s compelling journey across this very earth, the dancers churning the sand into new patterns that dramatically scatter in a bid for transcendence. Eden Mulholland‘s theatrically visceral score thrums through the entire work, anchoring it with a richness of sound that speaks to the vitality of the piece. Combining original composition and dramatic well known works such as Vivaldi’s Gloria, Mulholland draws from a deep well of artistic expression and intelligently embeds historically important work into the musical journey of Archives of Humanity. Hill is constantly evolving her practice and motivations, and with this piece she explores the fundamentals of humanity in a series of moving vignettes that flow effortlessly into one another – a moving tableau of life itself that builds up both a sense of community and individualism in exquisite and tumultuous movement.
Visually, the whole thing is stunning. The ensemble of dancers all reference a collective of humanity throughout different eras in a heady mix of Tudor ruffs, Victorian nightgowns, 80s catwalk pieces that are rendered timeless when shaken together like a snow globe to create a cohesion present in both movement and aesthetic. Hill dives headfirst into an exploration of community and the support one has for humanity, at times it’s business as usual and figures move in synch but individually – weaving in and out of each other’s pathways in harmony. At other times, perhaps representative of tumultuous times such as war and pestilence the floor churns with bodies throwing themselves at life in a visceral display of desperation. In all of these moments the one thing that remains solid is the physical support given to one another – the performers move in blocks of people, literally and figuratively supporting one another be it on each other’s shoulders or to simply catch another dancer as they fall. Each performer represents a vast array of experiences from physical age and gender, to echoes of previous generations and perhaps that is what makes this work an entire experience.
Archives of Humanity is the physical embodiment of its statement – a visual representation of humanity’s journey that speaks to all. It’s a multidisciplinary, multigenerational, and dynamic piece – the essence of human experience incarnate. Boiling and bubbling over with raw humanism, this bold piece will keep you on the edge of your seat as you watch these performers push themselves to the brink of existence itself. Let Co3 drag you into their frenzied world – picking up the invisible lines of historical humanity and wrenching them seething and pulsing back into the world, their hearts beating loudly once more.
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