Performance and Choreography | Rob Heaslip & Laura Murphy Live sound composition | Irene Buckley Direction | Tom Creed Dramaturgy | Ailish Claffey
Wunderbarexplores a dependency to reach an equilibrium within human interactions. Through a physical research of routine, dependency, tactile-responses and instinct we investigate the addictions of searching for stability. What would happen if an attained equilibrium were to flinch, alter or break down? Do we adapt or do the partnerships fall apart?
Wunderbar, by Laura Murphy and Rob Heaslip is a carefully constructed and impeccably performed investigation into partnerships where the dancers seek equilibrium within shifting personal dynamics. (Michael Seaver. The Irish Times. 03, June 2014)
Wunderbar opens with its two dancers lying on the floor, legs and arms in the air as if falling backwards through a void. The minimalist set and Irene Buckley’s score create a sense of emptiness. The dancers’ relationship – to each other, to the space and the audience – is centre stage. They explore freedom as they fall through a series of synchronized movements that suggest unity.
Laura Murphy and Rob Heaslip ruffle their hair as if trying to brush off wasps. They anticipate the hectic pace to come as they resume their slow and controlled movement. Irene Buckley’s score chimes like a prayer wheel. The dancers rise. They are not falling anymore, although they’ve left the audience with that feeling. The opening image colours our perception of what follows. The pace of the next section creates an unexpected tension. The audience wants to take its relationship with Wunderbar to the next level, but the piece knows better than to give up the goods soon. It builds anticipation, leaving the audience light headed as if falling, weightless as if lifting off in a plane. It could be sutbtitled “something’s gotta give.”
The music kicks in and the dancers do, too, releasing their pent up energy. Rob Heaslip circles Laura Murphy, breaks free of her gravitational pull and draws her to him. She spins around him, breaks free and draws him on. Each sequence builds on the last and contains the seeds of the next. The dancers fizz with the energy of a chemical reaction trying to attain equilibrium.
Heaslip’s hips gyrate with exaggerated sleaziness, Murphy appears oblivious. Sly humour and lechery suit Wunderbar, whose balance is made up of chaos as much as calm. Murphy puts her face in her hands and shakes her head furiously, bent double. Wunderbar turns on moments like these, centres of gravity it uses to build up speed and slingshot off in new directions. The audience wills the duo on in a rush of dance.
When Heaslip threatens to cross the line into the gallery his partner restrains him. Wunderbar flirts with breaking the fourth wall to explore its relationship with its audience, yet it’s too smart to go there. Murphy wrestles her partner back from the edge in a sequence that leaves them panting. Their breath on the air is the sound of fingers on guitar strings changing position, the effort that goes into clarity and precision.
Wunderbar begins with a fall, and ends on a high. It has the trajectory of a firework; it rises through a graceful arc and explodes. These dancers were never going to fall, or let the audience down. Wunderbar soars in the memory long after the audience has crashed back to earth.
Expert dancers Laura Murphy and Rob Heaslip have bought their two person dance performance to Dublin’s Project Arts Centre for two nights only.
Wunderbar begins as a 15 minute set piece for 2014’s Dublin Dance Festival and is developed into a full length, 40 minute performance. The magic of the show lies in the fact that Murphy and Heaslip hold the audience’s attention for the duration, making something beautiful look effortless. The performance feels as though only moments have passed when the final curtain falls.
The title Wunderbar comes from the German word meaning ‘wonderful’; which is an appropriate summation of the performance. The pair investigate power play in romantic relationships through form and movement, with each section building on from the last to grow into something ‘wonderful’.
The two dancers’ physical duet explore relationship stability, tension and power to a live score created by Irene Buckle. At the beginning the dancers are close, moving in perfect unison, following each other’s movements whilst remaining separate. The stage is bare and makes use of only two stage lights, one on either side of the stage to illuminate the drama and tension being bought to life. Precise and expertly choreographed movements seem to plot out the “couple’s” story, their relationship, on the stage. The emptiness of the stage at the beginning echoes the state of their relationship and as the second light switches on the couple become increasingly close, experimenting with the struggle between power and independence. They move through the space on the stage, gradually branching out from their starting positions, which were defined by the presence of the other.
As the dance progresses the movements become almost confrontational as their search for a balance between togetherness and independence takes place in the space between them. At one point close to the end the duo perform a powerful final choreography, holding and pushing each other’s faces away without ever fully breaking apart. The performance ends with Murphy and Heaslip in a reversal of their starting positions encouraging the audience to look deeply into this cyclical performance.
Wunderbar is a compelling physical expression of commonly felt emotions; the entanglement of confusion and desire that constitutes many relationships, and is guaranteed to hold the audience captive throughout.