Former Australian Dance Theatre dancer and assistant choreographer Larissa McGowan returns to Adelaide with a new work, Mortal Condition, which is inspired by the virtual world of gaming as well as Mike Patton’s experimental 1996 album Adult Themes for Voice.
“I have been extremely fascinated by Mike Patton’s vocal range and am also a huge fan of all his work, including the weird and wacky explorations he does,” McGowan says of Patton’s record that was recorded in hotel rooms across the world during a Faith No More tour. “So this album, for some reason, triggered something for me. I guess it felt like I couldn’t listen to it on its own and I felt inspired to complement it with movement vocabulary. Once working in the studio to it, it felt like we were communicating through our bodies and the soundtrack became our voice. “This world felt very human and real, it conjured up interesting relationships and caused reactions similar to those in our everyday interactions with other people. I wanted to put this up against a world that felt completely opposite. And the idea of escaping to the virtual world seemed right. We spend so much time working out how dancers in reality could do the things that characters within a game do. And some of it is extremely impossible. But it did allow us to explore the fact that gaming is a world that is fantasy and a place to explore the impossible, and why we are drawn to this.” Mortal Condition is divided into two parts: Part 1: Condition and Part II: Mortal Condition. “It wasn’t initially meant to be a two parter although it is explored this way. I feel it is up to the audience to decide as to when they have been transported into the other world,” she says. “The two stages were really clear about focusing on what each world was about and then how they merge together in our everyday lives, either to complement or to be a way of escaping from reality. I think each part offers a discussion into human needs or perhaps a want for something better.” McGowan, whose previous work includes Skeleton and Fanatic, says the virtual world intrigues her because she has never really understood it. “I am not a very good gamer but I find it fascinating how much it sucks people in. I have noticed friends who spend more time in the virtual world than reality. I don’t know whether this is good or bad. But by researching it more I have learnt how it is a larger community and an interesting source of entertainment.” At the moment, McGowan is a freelance choreographer: is she happy working independently or is she looking to one day lead a major company? “I would definitely love to take that next step but [those opportunities] don’t come around very often. So until the opportunity arises, I will continue to work towards it. I also value the experience being independent gives you. I feel it puts you in good stead to tackle things yourself and learn what it takes to be able to get your artform out there. It’s definitely a self-learning experience.” Mortal Condition Space Theatre (Adelaide Festival Centre) May 11 to May 14 adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au