With a gleaming white floor and a white backdrop, the clean stage feels like a space that is open to all ideas. A few percussion instruments sit on the side. Percussionist Claire Edwardes and dancer Richard Cilli walk quietly onto the performance space and place the instruments in carefully chosen spots. Lastly, they put two metronomes on the ground and stand behind them.

Richard Cilli and Claire Edwardes. All photographs © Heidrun Löhr

The metronomes begin clicking at slightly different tempi, gradually reaching a point where they synch with each other, then start to move out of synch again. Behind them, the performers move at a slightly different rhythm, moving hips, legs and arms in a contained, extended sequence. It’s an interesting but quite slow start to Recital, a new double act billed as “an unusual presentation of how movement sounds, and how sound moves.”

Recital, which is presented by FORM Dance Projects in association with Riverside Theatres in Parramatta, comes from a highly impressive team. The idea for the piece began with the two performers, internationally renowned percussionist Claire Edwardes, who is Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring, and consummate contemporary dancer Richard Cilli, whose credits include several years with Sydney Dance Company. They approached choreographer/director Gideon Obarzanek and electro-pop composer Paul Mac and with the support of the Australia Council the four of them undertook a creative development phase in 2017, followed by a second development phase in 2018.

As they explain in the program notes, they wanted to investigate the differences and similarities of the two performers in a work that would extend “the limits of their performative abilities and their craft” in a piece where “musical ideas were portrayed physically, and dance ideas musically”.

The musical concepts of phase and polyrhythm – where two or more different rhythms are used simultaneously – underpin much of the choreography and the physical style of the production.

With a recording of Mac’s engaging, seductive score playing behind certain sections, Edwardes plays her own compositions live on some unusual instruments: a Waterphone (resembling a giant head massager) which she plays with a bow to create high-pitched, rather creepy sounds; a row of silvery, metal, upside down cups with a bell-like sound played with mallets and a bow; a small instrument, based on a xylophone, glockenspiel and marimba, which combines wooden and metal keys; and three, round electronic drum pads for the uplifting finale.

Moving in response, Cilli seems to feel and embody the sound, which shakes his body and limbs, at times frenetically, rather than having him impose more obvious choreography to the music and soundscape. There is a section where the two of them walk, then run around the space, overtaking each other on the corners. There are also playful, amusing sections where they compete in a hand-slapping game, and later wrestle with each other.

At present, it feels that there are lots of interesting ideas in Recital that need further development to create something more dynamic, layered, intriguing and involving. Both performers are fascinating to watch, but the piece needs to go further in developing a language where sound and movement really do intertwine to become something different. So plenty of potential, but further to go.


Recital has a performance at the Riverside Theatres, Parramatta this evening at 7.45pm.

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