Dance

The drumming and dancing performance Double Double is evolving the conventions of performing and spectating. By Anador Walsh.

Double Double

Tina Havelock Stevens, Jo Lloyd and Deanne Butterworth in Double Double.
Tina Havelock Stevens, Jo Lloyd and Deanne Butterworth in Double Double.
Credit: Gregory Lorenzutti

In a game of basketball, a player scores a double-double when they get 10 or more points across two of the following categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots. Similarly, Deanne Butterworth, Jo Lloyd, Evelyn Ida Morris and Tina Havelock Stevens’ performance of the same name, Double Double, has five core tenets that participants must navigate: music, movement, costuming, context and audience.

Double Double is a durational performance for four performers. It merges the choreography and dancing of Butterworth and Lloyd with the drumming of interdisciplinary artists Morris and Havelock Stevens. Over the course of two hours, the four performers work through a series of established musical and choreographic phrases, generated through group conversation and feedback. 

These phrases are set, and stem from the premise “I am not you – you are not me”. However, they are not static. They evolve in response to the context in which the work is presented and the decisions that are made by the performers and audience during the performance. The level of agency this work affords its performers and spectators ensures that no two iterations of Double Double are the same.

Double Double premiered in 2019 at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Naarm (Melbourne), and has since been shown at Liveworks in 2019 on Eora Country (Sydney) and Mona Foma, Nipaluna (Hobart) in 2020. Most recently, Dancehouse presented Double Double on September 7 and 9, 2022, at Collingwood Basketball Stadium, Naarm. 

I saw the premiere of Double Double and attended the September 7 performance. This was the first time this work had been shown outside an art gallery context and it was a markedly different experience. Not only was the work removed from the conventions of performing and spectating dictated by the gallery, but it also became subject to a whole set of new conventions, inherent of a basketball setting.

After we were told we were free to roam and position ourselves as we pleased and that photography was encouraged, the audience was invited into the stadium. Upon entering, the dynamics of being in a coded sporting arena began to play out. Some audience members made a beeline for the bleachers, others stood around the periphery or sat on the metal seats that divided the stadium’s two courts. I watched as people navigated the borders of these courts, wondering if they would break with convention and cross them at some point, wondering if I would, too.

Morris and Havelock Stevens began drumming beneath the fluorescent-yellow floral sheets that have appeared in every iteration of Double Double. They were situated at opposite ends of opposite courts, beneath the basketball hoops. Butterworth began dancing on the same court as Morris, and Lloyd started in front of Havelock Stevens. A shared drum roll kicked things off, building a sense of anticipation.

This initial synchronicity between drummers was brief. There were times Havelock Stevens played a consistent beat, while Morris drummed something more erratic and discordant. There were moments of sparsity, as one drummer kicked their sticks along a court or both moved away from their kits to join the audience or change costumes. 

Lloyd or Butterworth at times played with Morris and Havelock Stevens on the drums, and sometimes Morris, Havelock Stevens, Butterworth and Lloyd performed choreography together as an ensemble. The only recurrent musical phrase was the drum roll, which re-entered the work a few times, usually signalling that something was about to happen. Depending on where you were situated, the volume of these drum rolls reverberated through your seat, mimicking the feeling of being courtside at a basketball game.

The choreographic content of Double Double intertwined the distinct yet historically enmeshed practices of Butterworth and Lloyd, who have been performing together for decades. When they danced separately, in different planes of vision, Butterworth’s iconic, rolling hand gestures and Lloyd’s decisive, jagged movements showcased their individual practices as choreographers. Yet when they moved together, in close physical proximity, their dancing bled to form a series of responsive duets.

The action in Double Double, with its moments of mania and its borrowing at times from the visual language of moshing, could be read as haphazard. However, the use of Andrew Treloar’s costume design would suggest otherwise. Having seen Double Double before, I found myself noticing that the performers’ costume changes were triggering or marking events within the performance, events that were familiar to me. I began noting where we were in the piece based on this costuming. 

When Butterworth and Lloyd donned leotards and wrapped themselves together in one of the yellow sheets, I knew we were halfway through. When the dancers disappeared one by one beneath a roller door and emerged in floral, pink, holographic Morphsuits, and Havelock Stevens was suddenly wearing a fur coat, I knew we must be approaching the end. 

This is not to say that the latest incarnation of Double Double was a repetition of previous iterations. There were several parts of this performance that were context-specific. The LED clock above one of the basketball courts counted down the last hour. In one moment, Butterworth moved courtside and drank from a nearby bubbler; in another, all four performers played a game of tug-of-war with a giant, purple, latex cross. Lloyd twice appeared to be giving her best Balenciaga runway impression, storming from one court to the next, a tote bag with a basketball in it slung over her shoulder. She later swung this ballbag repetitively against the ground. 

Being an audience member of Double Double is a complicated experience. Without the frame of the gallery and with the dancing and drumming happening in a basketball stadium, it was difficult to know how to behave. The usual frameworks for experiencing a performance or a basketball game did not apply, and instead I found that I was watching myself and those around me as much as the action unfolding before me.

My choices and actions felt comical and performative. I tried to figure out where I should be looking and what I should be documenting. I switched locations, pivoted in my seat and craned my neck so much that when the buzzer sounded and Double Double ended, I felt almost as exhausted as the four visibly spent performers. 

Double Double asks us to consider where we position ourselves in relation to a performance. Do we get up and move when a performer leaves our line of sight? Or do we fight the FOMO and stay put until they return? It challenges how we behave when the conventions of spectatorship are subverted. Do we default to what we know? Or do we do something different? Do we walk across the basketball court? I did.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 17, 2022 as "Four on the floor".

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