Sun, Mar 24, 2002 - Page 19 News List

Freeze-framing Australian dance

By David van der Veen  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

A dancer with the Bangarra Dance Theatre from an unusual viewpoint.


After gaining acclaim in the fields of fashion and nude photography, Australian photographer James Houston turned to observing dance. As a great piece of choreography does not necessarily make a great photograph, Houston invited members of three of Australia's leading dance companies -- the Australian Ballet, the Sydney Dance Company and the Bangarra Dance Theatre -- to his studio "to direct my own ideas rather than just shoot predictable `dance shots' that have been used to capture dancers for years."

The results of exposing 600 rolls of black-and-white film over five days are displayed in the Rawmoves exhibition at Cherng Pin Gallery on Tunhua South Rd., as well as an NT$1,750 book with the same title.

As Houston is mainly known as a body and nude photographer -- culminating in an earlier book, Raw, and the official calendar for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games -- it should come as no surprise that he focuses mainly on the dancers' forms.

"I didn't want it to be just about dance. I wanted it to be different. I wanted ... to create images and compositions that captured emotion and form," Houston says in his Rawmoves book.

It is debatable, however, how much of a dancer's emotion a photographer can capture when directing the subject in a studio for one or two days, especially when one lacks a background in choreography (Houston studied ceramic, sculpture and design and took up photography as a hobby 10 years ago).

In the roughly 40 prints that are exhibited, Houston shows excellence in technique as well as in capturing dancers when airborne. Most of the group compositions, however, show a lack of choreography, with limbs interlocking to little effect.

Art Notes:

What: Rawmoves -- James Houston photo exhibition

Where: Cherng Pin Gallery, B2 245 Tunghua S. Rd., Sec. 1(北市敦化南路一段245號B2)

When: Until April 7, Daily 11am - 10pm

'Rawmoves' will be shown at the Hsinchu Municipal Performance Hall from April 13 until May 30 and at the Eslite Bookstore in Tainan between Aug. 1 and Aug. 18.

In the series on the Australian Ballet, placing less importance on the human form and more on costumes might have improved the works, as well as providing more of a variety to Rawmoves.

Despite this, Rawmoves provides an interesting, if highly personal, snapshot of the contemporary dance scene in Australia, which is enhanced by videos of performances by the three groups that are shown in the gallery throughout the day.

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