Ruined by rolling on the floor

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 April, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 April, 1998, 12:00am

Are you wearing your protective anti-nuclear overalls? Good. Now attach your face mask and white gloves, because the All Independent Dance Series is about to begin.

And it should start with a couple of health warnings: if you do not like ululation, birdsong or watching lots of fully clothed people writhing around on the ground, this opening Dance Series show by Bilibala Physical Theatre is perhaps not the best way to spend your holiday weekend. And even if you like all these things, if you are in any way allergic to dry ice it is perhaps better to stay away.

This drama about the perils of pollution involved a great deal of grey smoke puffed into the little McAulay Studio theatre, and several members of the audience were coughing and covering their faces.

Chasing The Rainbow starts with a masked man swathed in a white protective outfit - a ghostly and forbidding theatre usher. The dance unfolds with a young woman playing with a white balloon, a sense of wonder on her face, to the background of new age - very slow - piano music.

Then there is plenty of writhing around on the stage with the kind of primeval sludge analogy that too many young dance groups feel no socially aware dance choreography should be without.

It lasts too long, and all that birth analogy through the dark triangle in the forest is a little obvious.

I blame the process of 'contact improvisation' - a rehearsal technique which the dancers admit they used extensively. Contact improv uses a lot of rolling around on the ground and on each other; tremendous fun to do, but usually less fun watching other people doing it.

The piece brightens considerably when one dancer separates from the others, bursts a balloon and suddenly finds himself in a dark tunnel, watching a pas de deux of head torches.

Another high point is when a chorus of nuclear-plant workers begin dancing around our hero like a ridiculous team of evil little robots, or when the paper clouds descend to give the stage a real sense of gasping claustrophobia.

But these stronger moments are lost between all the wondrous reaching for the stars and rolling on the floor that gives contemporary dance - which can be so exhilarating and inventive - a bad name.

CHASING THE RAINBOW Bilibala Physical Theatre McAulay Studio, Arts Centre