Review: Opal Vapour

by Jane

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Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal performs Opal Vapour entirely on top of a rectangular plinth. Through playing with the layer of sand this is reveled to be a lightbox, glowing in tones of blue, purple and red. Through projection and lighting (lighting image and design by Paula van Beck) our eyes are drawn through the work to different images: to the physicality of Tyas Tunggal’s performance, to Ria Soemarjo’s deft fingers are work on the viola or a drum, to a shadowed projection lifting the image of Tyas Tunggal from above.

The work has a unique choreographic vocabulary, a meeting of contemporary dance and traditional practices, primarily from Indonesia. Throughout the work, Tyas Tunggal plays with a duality of images. Paired with the soft flow as the wrists circle and the fingers glide over unseen surfaces is a face held taut. Her eyes look out beyond the performance; out into some nether space that we can’t view. She often appears to be unavoidably responding to an external stimulus, not entirely in control of her own body.

In another scene, above the stage we see only her the shadow against a background of blue. In this space she seems to be floating weightless in water, her limbs only responding to the flow of the liquid: her body calm and relinquished into the quiet control of the sea. Look down at Tyas Tunggal as she lies on the block and performs these movements, though, you see the physical precision that this imagery demands. Her limbs, far from being weightless, are tense: muscles held in rigidity as she tightly controls their movement. We are simultaneously given images of the tranquil and the tense, a manufactured image and the effort gone in to create it.

Ria Soemarjo’s voice is haunting, it plays against the bowed and plucked strings of the viola in a way that doesn’t quite feel real: the music feels foreign but grounded in something innately comfortable. Perhaps it is the blending of the familiar viola, or the melding of this vocal style with English lyrics.

Over the course of the work the wooden floor of the Waterside Workers Hall is blanketed in a fine layer of sand. As Tyas Tunggal kicks and throws the sand off her platform with force, the small particles only go on to quietly fall back to earth in a soft cover.

From the audience, the work in many ways feels meditative. With only two performers, it is easy for your mind to wander and mine frequently did. But the work remains there open for you to come back in and seamlessly join back in. Tyas Tunggal’s choreography powerful and enticing, she swirls your mind up into worlds and images, before dropping you back to earth.

Opal Vapour has come to Adelaide through Performing Lines’ Mobile States tour, a national touring program that allows independent practitioners to be seen in capital cities and regional centres. These productions were previously shown in Adelaide at the Adelaide Festival Centre, but when they dropped the presentation arm of their inSPACE program not only did we lose a performance space for local practitioners, we also lost the tours of these works from interstate. Vitalstatistix has now taken over the program, and it isn’t without some oddities. A Table of Knowledge is being presented with Vitals and Country Arts SA’s arrangement with Performing Lines’ Road Work,  in Noarlunga but not in Port Adelaide (that’s twice as far away from the city, in the opposite direction); Jack Charles vs The Crown is also being presented in Noarlunga by Country Arts SA and Road Work, but not by Vitals in Port Adelaide.

This aside, however, it’s good to see this work back in Adelaide, and primarily being presented in a space that is much more flexible and responsive to the work that the AFC could be. Opal Vapour could have been swallowed by the Space Theatre. It’s critically important for Adelaide’s artists that these works are coming to our city: to both expand the types of performance they are seeing, but to build audiences that are also understanding of national trends and practitioners. Opal Vapour is only a drop in the hat of the national landscape; let’s all hope it leads to more.

Vitalstatistix and Mobile States presents Opal Vapour, directed, choreographed and performed by Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal. Live and recorded music composition / music performance Ria Soemardjo, light and image design / operation Paula van Beck, production manager / sound operator Amy Bagshaw. At Waterside Workers Hall until May 12. More information and tickets.

Then Perth, Hobart, Cairns, Mackay, Brisbane, Canberra and Blacktown. More information.

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