It’s a freezing Tuesday night, and instead of the warmth and comfort of The Australian Ballet studios or the State Theatre, we’re standing huddled together in Melbourne’s Guildford Lane, preparing to be part of web based video project Sideshow Alley TV. A bit of a guerrilla filming outfit, Dave, Ty and their merry group of video bandits have been setting up shop in assorted laneways around town, and shooting one-take footage of various musical acts, from established bands like Midlake to new kids on the block The Tiger and Me. So very Melbourne … and fittingly, so very, very cold.
The Australian Ballet corps de ballet member and budding choreographer Alice Topp has modified her acclaimed Bodytorque work, Trace, to take in the hazards of asphalt and gutters, cutting some of the lifts but none of the tension and meaning from the piece. Dancers Vivienne Wong and Calvin Hannaford walk through their paces, hands fluttering as they dance through the work in their minds. Squares of light illuminate the street from a nearby gallery, while glittering monolithic city buildings stand silently in the background.
Vivienne’s talented partner Tiago is our musician for the night and he hugs his guitar for warmth. There are no amps, no lights, no set-up: just five crew with video and still cameras waiting to capture the action. An old Nissan is parked nearby and its headlights are our DIY spots.
The dancers are ready, and frantically strip off their outer layers in the street, revealing flimsy flesh-coloured lycra. Vivienne’s knees are strapped with tape, skateboarder-style, to protect them from the rough surface below. The only sounds are Tiago’s melodic guitar and the soft scraping of ballet slippers; the rest of us are holding our breath. Every movement is gentle, insistent, full of longing. Calvin partners Vivienne with confidence, and the trust must be incredible as he holds her high, face towards the ground. Maybe it’s the unique and unusual setting, but there’s a kind of electricity in the air and we all know we’re witnessing something very special.
It lasts for five minutes but no-one wants it to an end. There’s a long pause before the whooping and clapping starts. One take was all it took.