Australian Dance Party: THE DATASET

ADP THE DATASET Alison Plevey and Sara Black photo by Lorna SimAustralian Dance Party is a professional dance company established in 2015 by WAAPA graduate dancer and choreographer, Alison Plevey, specifically to create site-specific dance works exploring environmental issues through the medium of dance.

Plevey and her company have won many awards and accolades for her creations which continue to subversively prick consciences and raise awareness.

For The Dataset Plevey has collaborated with VCA graduate dance maker, Sara Black, independent sound designer, Sia Ahmad and event organiser and technician, Jordan Hodge, to create a powerful expose of how the collection of data is infiltrating our daily lives. For this purpose they could hardly have chosen a more appropriate venue.

The Vault is a huge pillar-free concrete bunker that is now re-emerging as an exciting new special events venue in the Canberra industrial area. It provided the perfect environment for an unsettling surreal work imagining a future where data is deeply centred into everything we do.

For the purposes of this work The Vault became a rejuvenation centre, the latest facility for Biomet, a data capture, analysis and transfer operation that invites clients to experience the best in data-led living.

Once through the rather forbidding small door which allows entrance to The Vault, audience members were greeted warmly and invited to relax in front of a cosy fire and take advantage of the well-stocked bar.

Eventually the black curtain, which had divided the interior, was suddenly whisked away revealing a cavernous performance area delineated by an array of pulsing fluorescent lights.

A disembodied voice encouraged the audience to occupy the seating arranged around the perimeter of the area, and then began to explain the advantages of a treatment offered by the patented Biomet Humechanical Uploading System TM.

Gentle electronic sounds suggest busy technology going about its business, leading to an uncomfortable feeling that somehow the audience is unwittingly being caught up in some sort of advertising scam.

Eventually spotlights reveal two figures, Plevey and Black, costumed in futuristic white boilersuits.

They appear benign about following the instructions of the disembodied voice, which identifies as Ethan, as it continues intoning an endless list of mental, physical and imaginary benefits that will result from the treatments, reinforced by a continuous chatter-box stream projected on to the stark black wall behind.

The pseudo-scientific aspects of the production are brilliantly realised, creating a slightly surreal hypnotic effect as Plevey and Black progress through a series of tests and exercises, which ultimately lead them to pile up the fluorescent lights to form glowing campfires around which audiences members were invited to gather in a happy family’s environment.

It is then that the significance dawns of a chilling small-print message, available only to those who bothered to read the QR code program:

“Upon entering Biomet’s Datacentre participants give up the rights to all data uploaded. Access to participant’s data is given upon uploading and is assumed beyond cancellation. Biomet can adjust groups of data to create optimal recommendations. Any recommendations made by Ethan cannot be changed or altered”.

The Vault, Dairy Road Precinct, Canberra
Performance: Thursday 27 June 2024
Season: 27 – 29 June 2024

Image: Alison Plevey and Sara Black – photo by Lorna Sim

Review: Bill Stephens OAM