Go Deeper

Dateline: Melbourne

Posted June 11th, 2009

Federation Square in Melbourne has been chockablock with action the past couple of weekends.

Two weeks ago at a Russian culture festival I watched a man in his mid-60s point and laugh as a much older lady fell down some stairs. I had hoped it was a performance, but it was not.

Last week Melbourne’s Indian students came together to protest the huge number of assaults on Indian students over the past couple of years in Australia. The country is, right now, very publicly examining and confronting racial issues. A few of the protesters were dragged off by police.

On Saturday, though, I saw some raw human joy restored in Federation Square, through Chunky Move‘s flash-mob-dance-happening, Moving One Hundred. When I was asked to cover Chunky Move’s flash-mob-dance-happening for the blog, I was delighted to play a small part in building a bridge between the Philly and Melbourne arts communities.

After the jump, pics from my walk through Melbourne’s laneways, cool stuff in Fed Square, and the Chunky Move dancers emerging from the crowd.

LanewayArmed with my little Olympus camera, I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures as I wandered through some of Melbourne’s fabulous laneways on my way down to the square from my flat on King Street.

The laneways are the crisscrossed alleyways of the Melbourne city center which have been co-opted for cafes, graffiti art, and late night hipster clubs, showcasing this city’s dedication to bringing art into everyday life. Despite the problems that can afflict a city of more than 4 million people, the laneways add to the dreamy aspect of Melbourne, and it’s become one of my favorite cities in the world. [Mike’s an American expat.]

VolumeAs part of the annual Australian Dance Awards celebrations, a number of events occurred inside the Fed Square facilities before the Chunky Move and Ausdance Victoria Moving One Hundred grand finale outside in the Fed Square plaza. One of the highlights indoors was the Deaf Can Dance dance company who previously performed at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. And outside right now, pictured right, is VOLUME, an interactive audio and LED installation.

After a previous call for recruits, Chunky Move’s Stephanie Lake choreographed 100 dancers – some dancing for the first time, some obviously pros – into one hell of a little show at their Southbank studio here in Melbourne. Moving the piece into Federation Square, Moving One Hundred became Melbourne’s first flash mob dance, and some of the tourists wandering the square were obviously taken by surprise. The plaza went from empty to packed in minutes.

Chunky Move 1A small crowd slowly began to wander together in the mostly empty square and chatted with one another; the music started and suddenly a seemingly random jumble became an organized group. A little girl grabbed her mom’s hand and said, “Mum, look at those people!”

The dancers had smiles on their faces as they suddenly merged together from the passersby, and began to execute their moves in pure Chunky Move style. At times the group would perform as a one, but then would break off into little knots and satellites that must have been even more impressive to those watching from one of the many high-rises surrounding the square. I quickly jumped up on the permanent stage in the square to take some pictures and video (stay tuned for video posts soon!).

Chunky Move 3

Chunky Move 2

VideoThe dance, though seemingly sudden and random, was highly organized and though the music dropped out momentarily, it was otherwise well executed. The dancers were projected onto a big screen set above the stage in the square. After the first performance, Chunky Move also showed a cool short film of twenty-somethings pretending to dance like their parents.

The rain crept in for a moment in between performances but it moved on. Everyone went down for a duck sausage, some laughs, and a beer by the river after it was over.

An afternoon that had begun in a nearly empty square with a few clumps of tourists transformed into a dynamic happening where strangers talked to one another about how cool it all was. And one of the guys running the video was an Australian who grew up in Philly! Sadly, he escaped before I could get more than that out of him.

Everyone leaving had a smile on their face, and that’s the point right? We need more art jammed into our everyday life.

–Mike Andreas

Photos by Mike Andreas