The Engineered Air Theatre was the perfect venue for the Fluid Festival's opening hometown act, Hattori and Walsh. The choreographers, Deanne Walsh and Yukichi Hattori, shared the stage with their live musical counterparts, each established an honest and intimate relationship with the audience, while presenting two very different styles. Walsh's, 'upon black earth', was a compelling journey inspired by her experiences in West Africa and Cuba. Exploring the relationship of music and movement we were ushered through this unabashed journey. The piece began in darkness. Soft drum beats and low rumbles creep through the silence accumulating a palpable anticipation. The men's voices were so clear and powerful they filled the whole theatre with sound. Warm lights rose revealing the performers. Walsh was seated on stage, relaxed and observing the trio of percussionist and singers; Raul Gomez Tabera, Israel 'Toto' Berriel Jiminez and Frankie Joe Rukundo. That moment of stillness united the audience and choreographer, all entranced by the music. Slowly, Walsh's body begins to respond. Her movement paralleled the strong, resolute and fearless feel of the music. A stoic warrior, she portrayed serenity and softness in her eyes, never faltering her focus or commitment to the movement. I enjoyed the progression of the piece; varying moods, instruments and performers, it truly was a journey complete with suspense, resolution and comedy. I also took pleasure in the genuine chemistry and charm apparent in the interaction of the performers as well as each individual on their own. It was a beautiful, intimate and engaging performance; powerfully transformative. I felt as if I had a small glimpse of her travels and was left wanting to see more.
Hattori's piece, 'Solo?' also formed an intimate and apparent bond with the audience, but in a very different way. Hattori's performance was predominantly improvised to the sounds of the electronic duo The Dystopian's comprised of Ben Goodenough and Jason Troock. The black curtain backdrop had been lifted from the previous performance, revealing a white backdrop for fuzzy shadows and soft coloured lights. The space seemed light and airy...perhaps this is where the name Engineered Air Theatre was derived. Hattori too seemed to notice this space, for he certainly made excellent use of it, changing levels and using all aspects of his environment. His musicality and articulation were a wonder to behold, as was his precision and strength. The movement progression was interesting and intriguing; full of contrast. Hattori's neon fuchsia shirt and straight black pant tied in with the electronic mood of the music and movement. A nice costume choice that foreshadowed the bright colours that would be floating in at the finale. Hattori's use of balloons was a touch of brilliance. There was a collective joy as we were prompted to fill our balloons and free them to the air, to free ourselves as well. Uniting performers and audience, the theatre became a brightly coloured playground where we the audience were free to dance as well. Attempting to get the whole audience dancing is always a gamble and even if everyone wasn't on their feet, there was a definite feel of excitement, innocence and pure enjoyment in the air.