Antony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe (Australia)
La MaMa Ellen Stewart Theater
66 E 4th St
On the floor of the stage space, 64 small machines arranged in a circle are haloed in a dim light, waiting. When the performance begins, the dancers Antony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe occupy the space in the center of the circle, and the machines begin to play. Producing a rhythmic series of clicks at different pitches, the robotic instruments provide a propulsive, hypnotic score (composed and programmed by Macindoe) that operates in dialogue with Hamilton’s choreography. The movements of the two men are alternately fluid and angular, shifting abruptly in syncopated time with the instruments. When the dancers begin moving in unison (or complexly coordinated duet actions, such as a virtuosic sequence resembling a no-contact handclap game), the performance becomes a breathtaking display of physical precision and mental discipline. Later, the dancers’ score incorporates strings of numbers recited in irregular rhythms. Is it code? Surrounded by the ceaseless robotic beat, the men seem to be almost machines themselves.
Almost. What betrays their humanity is the visible effort of this highly technical performance. As their continuous stream of action becomes more and more complex, the dancers’ concentration becomes more and more legible. Sweat begins to drip. Brows furrow. The mechanical perfection of the robots is contrasted with the failure machine that is the human body. Is it a conversation, or a competition? Can the body be programmed like a machine, mental “code” translating to a highly specific sequence of physical activity? How long can this be sustained? Hamilton and Macindoe’s work is playful and profound in equal measure, highlighting the imperfect but astonishing physical body as it moves through a computationally driven world.