Review: Nought

Charismatic Kimball Wong leads the cast with stamina and authority. Nought marks a major advance in Jaber’s burgeoning choreographic career.

In this centenary year of Vaslav Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring to Stravinsky’s shattering score, it is well to remember the absolute necessity of counting in dance. The uproar, that erupted at its premiere almost as soon as the curtain went up, drowned out the music to such an extent that Nijinsky stood on a chair in the wings shouting himself hoarse counting out the difficult rhythms. Nothing like that happened at the premiere of rising choreographer Daniel Jaber’s Nought, of course – much of the work is danced with the only sounds the dancers’ breathing, some choreographed slapping of hands on the floor and the soft noise of their feet, in socks, landing, until a final section in which two dancers appear in black pointe shoes, whose hard blocked tips rap out in sharp percussive contrast. The very precise sound of the pointe shoes emphasises the significance of counting in the work, which is divided into sections, one of the dancers calling out a number from one to eight to initiate a new section. In his program note, Jaber writes that “Numerical logic has formed the ‘script’ for the work”, and this demarcation provides an indicator for change, often subtle, in the style of movement. There is great variety in the inventive choreography, which has a strong foundation in classical technique on which Jaber builds contemporary athleticism and modern fluency. This is not a work about emotion or narrative, but about the body’s movement and human capability to form and control movement so that it becomes dance. Bosco Shaw incorporates LED lighting from above and has banks of lights at each corner of the stage, sometimes linked to bursts of sound from Thomas Jeker’s sparse score. The eight dancers, in Catherine Zierch’s flesh-coloured costumes, most of them of light, flimsy materials – the striking exceptions are for the two in pointe shoes, who wear flesh-coloured tights with symmetrical tattoos from calf to neck – are exposed against a white floorcloth and backdrop, with the audience on three sides. They perform with confident enthusiasm, and the counting going on in their heads can only be imagined. Charismatic Kimball Wong leads the cast with stamina and authority. Nought marks a major advance in Jaber’s burgeoning choreographic career.

Australian Dance Theatre Samstag Museum of Art, Wednesday, September 25 to Friday, September 27

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