Dance review: Make Your Life Count, Arts House

Make your life count is a conceptual dance/performance art show preoccupied, even obsessed, with appearances and the meaning we derive from them. A technically complex piece in terms of audiovisual and spatial design, the great success of this performance was that the efforts seemed seamless and the audience was taken on a fascinating journey with dancer Sarah Aiken. The omnipresence of the narrator, (Sarah Aiken herself) for half the show, super magnified on the projection screen was both humorous and profound as she gave cryptic life advice to Aiken who, at at one point described herself as “lost”.

At the height of the play, there were multiple projections of Aiken dancing, in live capture and advanced recording, playing across the screen as she carefully moved white stage blocks and interacted with the footage. . There were so many layers to this performance that the overall effect was like an explosion; bodies and images cascade and multiply, like meteorites. This metaphor was extended to the final movement, a time-lapse of a scene in an executive office where a huge flower is blooming in the yard. The choice of the famous British hit “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve, whose lyrics (“Trying to make ends meet/You’re a slave to money then you die”) was a perfect dramatic irony for the moment, just like the office door ‘Make Your Life Count’ sign.

This piece speaks to the commodification of emotion, the monetization of relationships, and the banality of contemporary life in a new and fresh way. With snippets of Dada and delicious irony, Make your life count seemed to be deeply received by the audience, who responded with laughter, gasps, and a round of applause at the end. The trajectory of the show seemed astral as the frames of reference (literal and metaphorical) kept shifting and moving like the lavish gates of Alice in Wonderland. It was like falling down a rabbit hole where the sight was eerily familiar but full of surprises, as Aiken rippled across the stage, playing with projections until a startling reveal in the final moments.

Make your life countSarah Aiken and collaborators
House of Arts, North Melbourne

Choreography and interpretation: Sarah Aiken with Claire Leske
Video: Sarah Aiken
Composer: Andrew Wilson
Technical and creative support: Daniel Arnott
Text: Megan Payne with Sarah Aiken
Lighting: Amelia Lever-Davidson

Tickets: $10 to $20

Make your life count will be played until February 27, 2022