The Stance

(Metro Arts)


For nine hours on a winter’s day and evening in Brisbane, nine dancers perform a brilliant, epic work in King George Square.

Directed and choreographed by Liesel Zink, The Stance is a highly original and inspiring saga. Office workers pass by with bemused interest. Skateboarders approach with caution the dancing nine who commandeer much of their public space.

The work honours the tradition of those who have taken a stance in King George Square. Zink puts it this way in her program notes:

Join with us as we occupy King George Square, a place rich with the history of Queensland protest. For over one hundred years it has had miner’s strikes, Vietnam war marchers, indigenous rights protests, Springboks tour protests, Joh Era riots and G20 protests – it is a living monument to democratic movement in this State.

The music composed by sound artist, Mike Willmett, can be heard only by hired headphones (for free) from the stall erected for that purpose. In addition to the electronic music one hears the stirring speeches of radical intellectual, Dan O’Neill, and other orators from the massive 1977 protests held in the Square which resulted in hundreds of arrests of protesters engaged in peaceful civil disobedience. The cause then was the right to march in defiance of a ban imposed by the Premier, Bjelke-Petersen. “It is a rotten law being administrated in a rotten and unfair way.. These speeches loop through the music every couple of hours.

Zink has a knack of expressing the paradoxical combination of utter stillness “rooted in one dear perpetual place” with the sublime dance of bodies swayed to music. The Irish poet, W.B Yeats put it in these terms:

Oh chestnut-tree, great rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

The work starts with the dancers in the Square standing still in three by three formation. Their bodies start to move in unison, as if moved by some heavenly wind or wave. Yet each dancer remains rooted in one place, at least for the first twenty minutes. As one dancer starts to fall others rush to help her. This startles a group of young Japanese students passing through the Square. One wonders what they will report on their homecoming.

A lady with a baby in a pram walks by, one of many passersby who catch a glimpse of this intriguing modern ballet.

After 50 minutes the action turns to two dancers in combat, like a police officer arresting a protester. The intensity of this conflict gives way to slow motion, being an apparent dependence of one upon the other. How can we know the struggle from the embrace?

This device gives other dancers a chance for a rest break in this long and enthralling day. Your reviewer must confess he was able to attend only six of the nine hours (10am to noon and 3pm to 7pm) as the sordid business of earning a living intruded on this singular world of dance.

This is a production rich in ideas. It is a wonderful, defiant statement of kinetic public art.

At dusk, commuters’ head home through the Square. The colours of evening bathe the dancers in gentle hues suffused with red under-lighting.

The familiar gong of the City Hall clock tower marks the passage of the hours.

The innovative choreographer, Liesel Zink, has worked on this project for two years, consulting widely among the dance community and the arts community broadly, including your reviewer. Over a year ago she conducted a 40-minute synopsis at Metro Arts with a couple of dozen invited arts community onlookers from whom she obtained feedback and ideas. It is great to see Metro Arts contributing to the originality and vibrance of the arts in Brisbane.

This is a magnificent, special artwork. It expresses the drama of a public space in which for over a century many souls have taken a stance in the cause of freedom.

Director and choreographer: Liesel Zink
Dramaturg: Martyn Coutts
Sound artist: Mike Willmett
Dancers: Lauren Carr, Caitlin Mackenzie, Ting Cheng, Amy Pan, Joshua Thomson, Gabriel Comerford, Robert Flehr, Sammie Williams, Charles Ball
Producer: Lea Shelton
Creative producer: Britt Guy
Running Time: 10am to 7pm

— Matt Foley
(Performance seen: Wed 12th August 2015)