October 2011

Arts & Letters

Contemporary dance masterpiece

By Deborah Jones
Tanja Liedtke - ‘construct’, 2007

There are no Ring Cycles or Mahabharatas in Australian contemporary dance. The scale is frequently small and it is a fleeting art that depends crucially on its performers in a specific time and place. Since 2000, Stephen Page’s Skin, Garry Stewart’s Birdbrain, Lucy Guerin’s Structure and Sadness, Gideon Obarzanek’s Glow and Meryl Tankard and Paul White’s The Oracle live alertly in the memory, which is their only repository. But if one work must be selected to be first among equals, it is Tanja Liedtke’s construct.

construct premiered in London, with Liedtke in the cast. She died in an accident three months later, making this her last work. The physical reality of making things, particularly something as emotionally charged as a home, framed a study of the building and breaking of relationships. Construction implies competence, practicality, strength and creativity. There is a need for balance, ingenuity, problem-solving and co-operation. A structure can be a home or a prison; it can stand or it can fall. In Liedtke’s hands these literal and metaphorical notions were effortlessly entwined and animated with wit, joy, playfulness, sorrow, anguish and loss. The resonances were deep and intimate, sometimes troubling, yet rarely losing touch with life-affirming humour.

—Deborah Jones

Deborah Jones
Deborah Jones is the former arts critic for the Australian.

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