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Adelaide Fringe 2012

Tombola, traversing the unknown

Heidi McKerrow

Genre: Dance and Movement Theatre


Queen's Theatre 1, cnr Gillies Arcade & Playhouse Lane, Adelaide


Low Down

This trio of dancers play with the building blocks of contemporary dance and roll out some amusing images with a flick of their articulate wrists. A short work that could benefit from a bit more shake up in its use of space and audience engagement, “Tombola, traversing the unknown” still delivers some finely danced contemporary choreography.



“Tombola” is another word for “lottery” and is appropriate for a Fringe performance context where, as an audience, you never know what you’re going to get. Show titles, publicity build-up and pre-show set-ups can be misleading or disappointing. On this occasion, the audience is led by an American-accented guide to the back door of the Queen’s Theatre, schooled in the meaning of “Tombola” and instructed to throw a dice four times. This legacy of Cunningham and Cage is a technique often used by contemporary dance students and in my mind I flashback to the many instances I have witnessed. We are then led in past some plastic plants and across the ‘stage’ area between the already moving three dancers. In short shift dresses of different colours with small torches taped to one wrist, they perform a unison sequence in a triangle arrangement that gradually builds from contained gesture to a more full-bodied sequence that carves the space and scatters their formation. As the electronic scape builds in tempo and rhythm, the points of fold and initiation move from elbows and knees to hips, hanging the torso toward the floor and dropping through deep squats. The components of this first section are apparently ordered according to our 5,5,3,1 dice throws but the ‘chance’ element is neither obvious or ever revisited over the course of the 30 minute work. (The wrist torches’ effect also diminished by the pre-dusk timeslot.)


The most accessible section is about halfway through, when  the dancers begin to speak to us directly, playfully moving between two dancers’ stories while animating their words using the props on the body of the third dancer…“This is the story of a friend of a friend.” Here they show their capacity to engage more directly and honestly with the audience and to become more playful and inventive with the physical action. The little downstage set of boxes and cones now comes to life as they build and undo images from their stories of the others’ in their lives—little boxes becoming water splashing in the child’s bath or tears falling from her eyes.


All of the dancers are quite strong technicians, able to move in and out of the floor with ease and clarity, physically articulate and flexible. They play across planes around and within the body, a pirouette tails into a wrist curling, then leads into a swift shoulder roll into the floor. There is some particularly strong trio contact work later in the work—the three becoming one creature that rolls and reforms into another as they skilfully counterbalance each other in varying relationships to each other and gravity. However, overall the spatial composition is still quite frontal in its orientation and performed with a gaze that mostly maintains the fourth wall between audience and performer. The opening choreographed motifs reappear in various sizes and guises throughout and, predictably but with a satisfying circular unity, bring the piece to its conclusion. This lottery has a decent pay off worthy of a few more in its audience.