Judith Wright Centre
Judith Wright Centre
April 26 – May 3 2014
Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway
In both look and mood, Danse Noir harks back to film noir, with its haunted characters, and dark, brooding atmosphere.
Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, choreographer Penelope Mullen created this work centred on a voyeur watching the lives of people in an apartment building. (Perhaps it was also inspired by the night view of Fortitude Valley apartments from the Judith Wright Centre balcony, their lit windows revealing their occupants to people outside?)
The set (designed by Annie Robertson) resembled the foyer of a large, gloomy apartment building, with areas to the back and side suggesting segments of rooms. The 17 pieces of music included two songs sung live by Alinta McGrady (one a powerful interpretation of A Man’s World), four pieces by Icelandic composer/performer Ólafur Arnalds, three songs by Eartha Kitt, and Roxanne for the finale.
This show, presented by the Judith Wright Centre, gave seven emerging dance artists an opportunity to work with a choreographer in a professional production; six are graduates from the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA), and one is from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).
At the same time, they were working with seasoned performers Brian Lucas (also the dramaturg for the show), and Sunday Lucia (also the rehearsal assistant). As the voyeur landlord, Lucas was skin-crawlingly sinister and menacing, particularly in a duo where his character assaults one of the women.
Tyrel Dulvarie and Jesse Martin had an intense, controlled duo in, on, and around a bath, where Martin’s character is alternately seduced and rejected, and finally abandoned. Red petals fall to the floor around him, resembling blood.
To This Bitter Earth (Max Richter and Dinah Washington remix), waif-like Yolanda Lowatta and Kenny Johnson dance another segment around an Egyptian-looking couch. Both dancers are striking to watch, drawing the most out of each movement embodying yearning and solace.
Tyrel Dulvarie appeared twice as an androgynous character on pointe. His awkwardness and the inelegance of the feet added pathos to the character, who at the same time intrigued and attracted the landlord.
Sunday Lucia’s role was as a burlesque or cabaret performer, accompanied by the Eartha Kitt songs. The three numbers were all similar in mood and movement, with much seductive walking and posing. The display of bare flesh and glamorous costumes were more important than the dance in these repetitive appearances. It wasn’t clear why this character was given so much emphasis.
The ensemble work in the show was weaker than the solos and duos, with the movement not well defined, particularly when it was more classically based. In Roxanne at the end, the power of the music did not appear to be matched by the dancers, although the revolving spotlights flashing across the audience made it hard for us to see what was going on.
The show was a series of loosely connected vignettes. It was sexy at times, and beautiful at times, but uneven in conception and execution.