ECHO. Healing stillness, what lies beneath - Mischa Baka

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

ECHO. Healing stillness, what lies beneath

Echo is a new dance theatre work by Lola Howard, performed at Trades Hall in Carlton as part of LaMama Theatre.

Lola is a captivating presence on stage, striking a comfortable tone between earnest insight and unflinching frankness.
She tells stories and shares experiences with a serene and calm demeanour, expressing herself with clear words that never fumble or repeat. Its the type of stage presence that any public speaker would aspire to.
Her manner is comfortable and easy, and, as the stories begin, she shares a phrase that caught her attention in the book Big Magic, ' The safe path isn't safe.' This is one of the first instances in which Lola alludes to something darker or troubled lurking behind a sense of ease. Perhaps this ease comes at a cost?   
Peeking behind a serene, easy stillness becomes a recurring theme for each story. Growing up, Lola was expected to be quiet around her mother. She was led to believe that this quietness would help her mother recover from an illness. She was never to play music too loud and was to keep conversation to a minimum. This quietness is described as becoming part of her identity, causing an inward gaze that seeks answers to life’s challenges inside the self. With her mother’s tragic death Lola as a child struggles to sleep, and again, the only thing that helps her sleep is a bedtime story that asks her to find the edges of her mind and master aspects of self-discipline.
Each new story and choreographic phrase further characterises Lola’s sense for mediating her body and mind with the world around her.  But something is lurking underneath and it is literally described as a beast that lives inside of her body. Thus, Lola’s serene disposition, direct address to the audience and blue innocent eyes increasingly seem to be hiding a powerful mystery underneath.
This mystery is crafted well. It deepens with every clue, metaphor and anecdote lapped up by an eager audience wanting to understand more. Lola’s direct address to the audience starts to feel protective by forever holding our gaze with her clear, steady blue eyes. We can’t look away, she has us, we can only look deeper. In a moment when she turns her back I was struck by how unusual it was to look at her from this vantage point. Her direct command is rarely relinquished.  Lola herself speaks about being captivated by her own eyes in the mirror as a child, questioning her sense of self; was she simply a ghost controlling the vision of a girl? Using the classical stories of Narcissus and Echo, Lola continues to tease out the implications of a self-regarding gaze and finding stillness.

Lola shows us the power and intrigue that stillness can offer to a sense of self and way of being in the world. She is commanding with her pure and gentle expression. She also hints at the darkness that this serene power can perhaps repress, manifest or simply mask. She shows us that an ability to gaze at one’s self openly can at once bring us out into the world with clarity and power, while paradoxically hold us in a dark echo chamber of our own making.    
Echo, is a commanding work, I was eager for another chapter or two in order to go deeper and discover what lurks behind Lolo’s clear and present gaze. 


Unknown said...

Really enjoyed reading this! Captures the mood and key images of the work perfectly 😊

Mischa Baka said...

Thanks you Paula :)