Festival Hot Seat: Attractor
Indonesia’s music duo Senyawa joins forces with two of Australia’s leading dance companies, Dancenorth and Lucy Guerin Inc to take you on a trance-noise odyssey in Attractor. Choreographers Lucy and Gideon give us the low-down on this exciting new performance.
Firstly, can you introduce your show and tell us what it is about?
Attractor is a work where dance and music propel each other into heightened experiences for performers and spectators. Its a collaboration with Indonesian music duo Senyawa. Eight dancers are swept up by the energy of the music that in turn responds to their physical abandonment.
Senyawa reinterprets the Javanese tradition of trance through dance and music as a powerful, secular, present-day form. Their unusual sound borrows from the metal bands they listened to as teenagers – Black Sabbath, Metallica, Iron Maiden – and Indonesian ritual and folk idioms.
20 completely unrehearsed audience members volunteer to join the artists on stage. This participatory act of doing dissolves the demarcations between dancer and non-dancer, audience and performer, professional and amateur
How and where will the work be staged?
Attractor will be presented at the Brighton Festival in the Brighton Dome Concert Hall.
It begins with the two musicians and the dancers setting up in a circle centre stage. The music propels the dancers into movement and the musicians respond to the physical intensity of the dancers creating a visceral experience for the audience. About two thirds of the way through, twenty members of the audience get up from their seats and make their way to the stage where they join the dancers and become an integral part of the performance.
These participants are volunteers that sign up to be part of the show beforehand. They arrive before it starts and are fitted with in-ear devices. When the time comes, they are verbally directed through their ear- pieces to go onstage and guided through a series of instructions to perform a dance that merges with the professional dancers. There are no prior rehearsals.
Why should someone come and see your show?
We think audiences will be truly inspired by Attractor. This is a work that blurs the line between performer and spectator, creating an empathetic and intense experience for the viewer. The energy and skill of the dancers is not just an opportunity to sit back and watch, but to engage with the way that dance and music can enliven and transform us.
Where did the idea and inspiration come from?
Gideon Obarzanek (Director/Choreographer) first met Indonesian music duo Senyawa in Yogyakarta in 2014, and travelled with them to a remote village in far eastern Java to observe a traditional trance ceremony. After two nights of prayers and offerings to the dead, dancers entered a state of trance through a series of astounding performances. Some time after that, Gideon was reflecting on his many years of creating virtuosic stage productions with highly trained dancers, in contrast with his early experiences of dance. These took place on kibbutz in Israel where he grew up as a child doing folk dancing, where participation was privileged over performance.
As contemporary artists performing to secular audiences, Rully, Wukir (Senyawa) and Gideon discussed their interest in traditional music and dance. They pondered why they and other non-religious people are drawn to this type of ceremonial performance and concluded that dance and music can create transcendent states for participants, through which they become a part of something bigger than themselves. Making Attractor comes from a shared interest to construct rituals for non-believers.
What’s going to surprise people about this show?
This show is surprising on several levels. Senyawa’s music is completely captivating and like nothing you’ve heard before. It’s an impossible blend of heavy metal, noise, throat singing, operatic vocals and traditional music that somehow results in a unique coherent sound. The dancers are virtuosic in their immersion in the choreography and music and their commitment to the intensity of the show.
But perhaps the most surprising element is when 20 audience members get up out of their seats, walk on stage, and join the dancers . This breaks down the barrier between audience and performer and unites 30 people onstage in a shared experience as they collectively succumb to the inherent power of the experience. The remaining audience have a strong empathetic connection as they watch people like themselves in this exhilarating predicament. People are often amazed by the fact that the audience participants who join the dancers onstage have no prior rehearsal and are doing the show for the very first time.
What does Brighton Festival mean to you?
Brighton Festival is an event we have heard about for years but have never experienced. To us, it inspires thoughts of an innovative artistic program linked to the places, culture and people of the city. We have high expectations!
What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Brighton Festival programme?
We are really looking forward to seeing what’s happening in contemporary UK performance and the international work that’s in the program. Coming from Australia, it’s a great opportunity to immerse ourselves in the festival atmosphere of Brighton and understand its identity and future visions. We are also thrilled that Brighton audiences will have the chance to see Attractor.