If you’ve ever bemoaned using too much glitter after a craft day or party, spare a thought for Frankie Snowden and Madeleine Krenek.
Frankie and Madeleine use 15kg of salt in every performance of their touring contemporary dance piece, the perception experiment, by GUTS Dance.
The work, which will return to its roots when it’s performed at Dancenorth in Townsville this week, uses dance, sound and sculpture to blur the lines between artist and audience; and provoke the senses in ways its creators hope are novel to those experiencing it.
Frankie and Madeleine said the more they performed the work, the greater the significance of salt became.
“It’s brought meaning to the work in the sense of the environment that the work was made,” said Madeleine. “How salt reacts with different frequencies and how it can change and shift into different patterns when sitting on a metal plate. The work also deals with concepts around molecules, atoms and matter and how it comes together and whether we can dance ourselves into a dematerialised state at any point.”
“We’ve done Q&As on every show of this tour and it’s been fascinating to hear people’s different interpretations of the salt and learning about their relationships to it. It is also a really stark contrast to the negative space in the room, because the room is really, really, really dark,” Madeleine said.
While at first thought salt might seem like a pretty basic ingredient, Frankie and Madeleine said finding the perfect salt while touring was proving an interesting task.
“When we were first making the show, we went through so many different tests with so many different types of salt and coarseness and different things that are added to the salt whether it be pool salt, or table salt, or cooking salt, or rock salt,” Madeleine said.
“We settled on this particular brand of fine table salt that has an anticlumping agent in it and we strive to get that exact salt everywhere we go because it falls and hangs and disperses; and we can carve through it the best.”
The perception experiment is about more than salt though. Ultimately, Frankie and Madeleine set out to give their audience an opportunity to feel their own bodies as they were immersed in the dancers’ movements. The piece begins by inviting audience members, one-by-one, into the performance space.
There’s a really deep trust that’s created without much consultationFrankie Snowden
Frankie said this invitation established a closeness between the audience and the dancers very quickly.
“There is really a deep trust that is created without much consultation, “said Frankie.
“It is explained to the audience before they come in what will happen without giving too much away and then they just trust us to take care of them in quite a vulnerable situation. We also trust that they will abide by parameters that we’ve set and keep us safe because we enter into quite a vulnerable state altogether and there is an exchange of understanding that in order to occupy that space together, we all need to be calm and trust one another.
“What I’ve learned through the perception experiment is that inherently people are really curious and vulnerable but very, very trusting and I feel very humbled by the bravery of people.
“I’m talking about it like it’s some really extreme thing, it’s not that extreme, but I think contemporary dance can put people a little bit on edge because they think they’re not going to understand it, or its too abstract or it’s too far from their everyday anyway and so to then be pulled into this other place where you’re like ‘whoa, I’m actually standing in a really dark room with a bunch of strangers I don’t know. What the hell?’ has been really, really amazing. Overwhelmingly, the reactions are ‘that was what I needed’ or ‘that just put me into a state of complete relaxation’ or ‘you really stripped away all of my pre-conceptions of what was going to happen’.”
While Frankie and Madeleine created the perception experiment for GUTS Dance in Central Australia, the piece has a special tie to Townsville, with its early stages developed at Dancenorth.
“We were the first Dancenorth Artists in Residence when they built that program, so we built a large section of the work in Townsville in the studios there,” Frankie said.
“Were super excited about being back in Townsville and sharing it with the public there; putting it in that space is going to be really beautiful.”
Madeleine added that its also an opportunity for local audiences to experience a different type of contemporary dance.
“It is quite different to what Dancenorth does, so it’s nice to feel like they’ve done all the groundwork in building an audience and now we can bring our really weird show. People will probably have a lot to say about it.”
GUTS Dance will present the perception experiment in Townsville on 11 & 12 March 2020.