‘Hilt’ with Mil Vukovic Smart

I’ve been hanging out with Mil Vukovic Smart as a dramaturg on her new peice HILT, which had its premiere at The Place on the 15th Feb.

Below are some photos by Donna Ford, and three reviews:

Carmel Smith (original here):

The starting point for Mil Vukovic Smart’s HILT  is the Mad Scene from the ballet Giselle. It’s a glorious, fragmented mash up of contemporary, classical and found movement for four dancers. An eclectic set of costumes could have been grabbed from a dressing up box. The soundscape contains extracts of music from Giselle and in one deliciously incongruous moment, where the dancers move toward towards the audience in a series of formal ballet positions, the song Feeling Good. In its disjointedness, HILT gives a vivid sense of the traumatised mind. Bookends of extracts of an interview from Rambert’s sound archive with a ballerina who danced Giselle for Marie Rambert gives useful context to this shattered picture and a final piece of advice: ‘if you forget your steps, just keep spinning’.

Nicholas Minns, Writing About Dance (original here):

After the ritual tipping out of the audience into the bar, we return to a bare stage and the disembodied voice of former Rambert ballerina Beryl Goldwyn talking to Claire Izzard about dancing the role of Giselle. In a monochrome colour scheme Terri Biard walks in and stands with her back to us; Kashish Gaba strolls in, then Luigi Ambrosio wearing a kilt. When Mil Vukovic Smart joins the group with bare legs in black trunks we are acutely aware of a disconnect with the romantic ballet. Or is there? When the four turn to each other in silence with signs and gestures of alienation — Ambrosio is eloquently withdrawn — it is clear Vukovic Smart’s HILT (with dramaturgical support from Paul Hughes) is not simply inspired by the Mad Scene from Giselle but seeks to recreate the interior landscape of Giselle’s mind that JulZin’s sampled, reverberating extracts from Adam’s original score so eerily suggest. Independent of the ballet’s narrative (that Goldwin has already re-told), Vukovic Smart drills down into the depths of derangement to concentrate on what it might look like just below the surface of the tutus and pointe shoes. In stark red light the four dancers reference a classical ballet class in a key of concentrated distraction to Muse’s rock version of Feeling Good and Biard essays some of Giselle’s choreographic phrases to JulZin’s samples. Elsewhere there are arms like wilted flowers, silent screams, searing suspicion, brooding, gliding monologues, and a febrile energy that overflows in slides, jumps and turns. Biard finally succumbs and is laid to rest, leaving Goldwyn’s voice to remind us of life on the performative surface. In the boldness of its conception and in its sympathetic yet graphic imagination, Vukovic Smart is on to something here, and if HILT isn’t quite fully formed it is tantalizingly close.

Rohanne Udall, Exeunt Magazine (original here):

Mil Vukovic Smart’s HILT is a fragmented reflection on the Mad Scene from the ballet Giselle. The work has a delicious, steady simmer, within which each of the dancers has a particular nervous, haughty or erratic intensity, an attitude matched by a shifty, gently surprising choreography. After a still, almost brittle opening in which the dancers enter gradually, each with their back to the audience, a shift to the front is met with a blast of red light and the sudden, surprising introduction of Muse’s ‘Feeling Good’.

With a kind of hidden glee, a pulsating pleasure echoed by the music, the dancers move through ballet movements with a mechanic perfunctoriness. Throughout the work they seem to grip onto the structures of the discipline, the work’s rich history, as much an anchor to sanity as an inspiration for the performance of ‘madness’. At the same time, ballet’s stern civility appears as a repressive culprit – the standard against which the different might be considered ‘crazy’, or other.

The dancers move in private dialogue with this contradictory material. They seem to sift through fragments of memory and reference, their own whims, mechanical repetitions. Later on in the piece, I found myself craving a return to the Muse moment’s punchy flippancy and cohesion, or a twist into something a little more raucous or wild. This was partly met by a brilliantly strange moment in which one dancer pulls her hair up above her head, holding it there, her face in a fierce glare, before jumping onto the shoulders of the performer next to her and running, bull-like, at the rest of the cast.

The piece ends, as it had begun, with an audio extract of ballerina Beryl Goldwyn, the frankness and warmth of her comments on performing in Giselle a useful counterpoint and contextualiser. She has the final word, and some advice for dancers: “if you forget your steps, just keep spinning.”


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