Archive for the 'Dance' Category

19
Feb
18

Everything Remains

 

Everything Remains

Juli Apponen & Jon R Skulberg

Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance Brisbane

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 16 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Performance by JULI/JON entitled “EVERYTHING REMAINS”
18-20.09. 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

 

Everything Remains is choreography for a tired body…

 

 

JULI/JON are not interested in bodies with unlimited possibilities and virtuoso movement repertoire. They are interested in limitations, weakness, tiredness and bodies that are on stage not because they can, but because they can’t. 

 

– Juli Apponen & Jon R Skulberg

 

 

Everything Remains (recommended for 18+) is a gripping and intense experience for the audience. The different elements of the performance — the dancer, sound, lighting, set and structure of the piece — work together to create an intensity of focus that is utterly absorbing. I have never been in an audience that was so quiet during a performance. Afterwards, it was a sensory shock to walk out into the Powerhouse foyer full of light, people and noise.

 

One of the main stage performances of the Supercell Festival, this 50-minute work is by a Scandinavian team, including Juli Apponen (creator, choreographer, space and lighting design, performer), originally from Finland and now living in Sweden; Jon R Skulberg (creator, choreographer, space and lighting design), from Norway; Lil Lacy (composer), from Denmark; Astrid Hansen Holm (dramaturg); and Addis Prag (lighting).

 

On the surface, the piece seems simple: one performer on a rectangle of white floor on a black ground, minimalist music, and slow, controlled and limited movement.

 

The publicity about the show talks about it being ‘choreography for a tired body’. On their website, Apponen and Skulberg reveal that ‘Juli Apponen’s body has undergone a heavy transformation through several surgeries and numerous severe complications’.

 

The title Everything Remains reflects the concept that everything that happens to the body leaves its mark on that body. It’s logical, then, for Apponen to remain naked for the performance. Her body is slim, but without the ultratoned muscularity of many contemporary dancers. A scar runs down her abdomen.

 

Apponen is lying face down on the white floor as the audience enters. The music begins with an almost inaudible peeping sound, and Apponen slowly bends her elbow and draws up her hands, slowly comes up into a crouch, and stands. Movements such as slowly turning her averted face to the audience seem powerfully significant.

 

She walks very very slowly around the white floor, placing each foot directly in front of her, as if walking on a line. Her concentration and focus are palpable, her gaze impassive yet intent.

 

The movement develops to include crouching, lying in different positions (some beautiful, some ungainly), slowly arching off the floor, gradually coming into balances, slow-motion curling and writhing on the floor, and standing to spin slowly, extending and contracting the arms.

 

The music gradually includes more notes and becomes louder, almost painfully booming, chiming, grating and screeching towards the end. The lighting (by Apponen, Skulberg, Prag, and light technician Daniel Goody) varies from cool and dim, to warmer and brighter, and creates different amounts of shadow on Apponen’s body.

 

Performance by JULI/JON entitled “EVERYTHING REMAINS”
18-20.09. 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

At the final climax, Apponen has folded up the white floor covering, and strobe lighting amidst smoke shows her moving round the floor, turning and raising and lowering her arms in a slow frenzy. The varying speeds of the flashes create different effects: slow motion ‘time-lapse’ images, blurred ultra-brief glimpses, and sudden appearances and disappearances. Then suddenly it is quiet, Apponen stands still and everything goes black.

 

Apponen’s performance is utterly absorbing, expressing her experiences in a way that deeply moves other people.

 

The powerful and economical structure of this work and the way it develops are a tribute to the work of co-creators Apponen and Skulberg, and dramaturg Hansen Holm— while there are no explosive, virtuosic movements and expansive action, you are in a state of suspense, constantly waiting for the next movement or change in movement.

 

While minimalist, Everything Remains contains a lot of variety, although this is expressed in minimal ways. It shows that limitations and restrictions can focus to an intensity that makes a powerful impact.

 

JULI/JON´s two first performances are part of a trilogy in development. Everything Ends With Flowers, (2012), Everything Remains (2015) and a third piece which is in development.

 

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19
Feb
18

The Blokes Project

 

The Blokes Project

Joshua Thomson and Matt Cornell

Flowstate

In association with Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance Brisbane

February 13 – 18 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

Men are meant to be something, they’re meant to be stoic, they’re meant to be independent. Some of these ideals are not actually working for us as a society.

Joshua Thomson

 

Supercell is a contemporary dance festival in Brisbane, now in its second year. It consists of multiple performances, classes/workshops and talks/discussions — mostly one-offs. I cannot claim to review the whole festival, or give an overview of it, as I saw only three performances. What I can say, though, is that I wanted to see many more, and that next year I intend to take a week off so that I can go to as many events as possible.

 

The Blokes Project was one of the few festival shows that ran for multiple performances. On its first night, a summer storm hit Brisbane. The storm wasn’t quite a supercell, but dramatic enough to echo the festival name, and provide a primal environment for co-creators and performers Joshua Thomson and Matt Cornell.

 

 

Flowstate, the new temporary creative space at South Bank, includes a performance space with a roof and no walls. The Blokes Project set was not covered by the roof, and the performance had to stop after 40 minutes instead of the scheduled 60, as rain made the conditions too hazardous for the dancers. (In the audience, we experienced only a bit of fine spray blowing in over us.) The set is a flat-roofed shed-like structure built from scaffolding and panels. (The original set, for earlier performances in other states, was a shipping container, pictured below.)

 

 

 

 

Wearing shorts, jeans, Tshirt/singlet, workboots and Akubras, the dancers began by slouching and moving through various tough ‘masculine’ poses and expressions (sometimes reminiscent of poses in a workwear catalogue). This develops into a slow, controlled duo where these movements and poses are extended into acrobatic lifts performed with a slow nonchalance. Thomson and Cornell support each other, and the movement of each depends on the weight, strength and counterbalancing of the other.

 

The dancers reproduce, amplify and extend the physical bearing, poses, expressions and gestures of working men into dance sequences involving lifting, manoeuvring on networks of ropes, climbing scaffolding, and fighting.

 

The dance sequences are interspersed with audio (including brief discussions of what lies behind male suicide and domestic violence) and video projections (by Claire Robertson) on the front of the ‘shed’, showing, for example, footage from a car driving along a dirt road in the wake of dust from a vehicle ahead, and an older man against an outback landscape and blue sky, accompanied by a monologue about talking to an older man, and expressing feelings.

 

The soundscape (by Tristen Parr) includes sounds like a small plane taxiing, and music dominated by dark strings.

 

After changing into dry clothes, Thomson and Cornell took part in a Q&A with the audience, and spoke engagingly and interestingly about their creative process and their experiences in thinking about what it means to be ‘a man’. As part of their preparation, they worked in ‘speed apprenticeships’ with men doing manual work across northern Australia, as well as drawing on their own blue-collar backgrounds. They are interested in the physical intelligence involved in manual labour — how much force is needed to do particular tasks, for instance. This is likened to the physical intelligence involved in dance — which is, perhaps, developed and discussed by its practitioners in a more conscious way.

 

The work is informal, with moments of humour. It does feel like watching two blokes at work on a project — as well as watching two highly skilled performers.

 

In between sequences, one leans on a door and appears to chat to the other inside the ‘shed’. It is an interesting exploration of ‘blokiness’ — and an examination of masculine behaviour that in everyday life is often not examined.

 

The rain added some unforeseen elements to the performance that the blokes took in their stride.

 

19
Feb
18

APAM 2018 begins!

 

APAM 2018 CEMENTS BRISBANE’S PLACE ON THE GLOBAL STAGE

 

The Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM 2018) officially opened today at Brisbane Powerhouse, an event that has brought an influx of visitors to the city and will shine a light on Australian arts and culture.

 

APAM is Australia’s leading internationally focused industry event for contemporary performing arts, held this year from 19 to 23 February. More than 670 delegates from 39 countries have been warmly welcomed onto country through song, story and dance, and celebrating Australia’s oldest living culture. They will witness extraordinary contemporary performing artists and companies present 46 (15 Pitches and 31 Showcases) Australian and New Zealand showcases and pitches.

Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said the Australian Performing Arts Market (APAM) was an example of Council’s vision for Brisbane to become a premier location for thriving creative industries in Australia.

“Brisbane is proud to again host this exciting creative showcase, which will welcome hundreds of delegates from 39 different countries to our New World City,” Cr Quirk said.

“APAM will give our international visitors an opportunity to see why Brisbane is a top destination for arts and culture and create more leisure and lifestyle opportunities for Brisbane residents.

“It is fantastic to celebrate another exciting event for our city’s creative and performing arts scene.”

 

APAM will host over 265 Australian and New Zealand artists and companies across the range of performing arts genres, who will present or pitch their work to festival directors, venue managers and program executives from around the world to find touring partners and investors to take their shows to audiences in Australia and overseas.

 

This will include renowned Sydney hip hop dance artist and choreographer Nick Power’s work Between Tiny Cities; a hilarious and deeply moving work about family, language and culture from acclaimed Australian actor Jimi Bani and Queensland Theatre;  leaders in contemporary circus Casus showcase their work Driftwood in a dazzling journey of explosive encounters, hidden looks and humorous discoveries, while All The Queens Men’s The Coming Out Ball blends showbiz bells and whistles, community celebration, heartfelt storytelling dinner and dancing.

 

 

At the opening event guests were given the opportunity to experience one of the FREE events on offer to the general public during this week long industry event.  String Symphony, a large-scale interactive performance installation, hand-woven using more than one kilometre of rope uses puppetry to explore connection, community and collaboration. Another free evening event for general public access will be A Night Across Asia (Thursday 22 February ), with performances by SsingSsing (Korea),  Senyawa (Indonesia) and Hiroaki Umeda (Japan) on the Turbine Platform, Brisbane Powerhouse.

 

 

Australia Council CEO Tony Grybowski said; “Since the Council established APAM more than 20 years ago it has grown to become one of Australia’s leading performing arts platforms, attracting more than 1200 influential Directors, Executives, Creatives, Associate Producers, CEOs, General and Program Managers, Artists and Agents from around Australia and the globe. This is the third time we have partnered with Brisbane Powerhouse on this signature event, which is a key part of our commitment to showcasing vibrant new Australian art and investing in the capacity of the sector to reach new markets.”

Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development Kate Jones said APAM would round off a blockbuster summer of events in Queensland.

“APAM is a fantastic contemporary arts experience which will showcase Brisbane’s cultural scene and will attract  visitors to Queensland. It will cap off what has been a spectacular summer of events in Brisbane, from the Rugby League World Cup and the Battle of Brisbane 2 to the Brisbane International, Brisbane Global Rugby Tens, and now APAM. The event will also help kick off this year’s It’s Live! In Queensland calendar, which is expected to generate a $780 million economic boost for Queensland in 2018.

In addition to providing the premier platform for Australian and New Zealand contemporary performing arts companies and artists to build international and national tours, APAM champions the ongoing exchange of ideas and dialogue.   It is through this philosophy a focused program of ongoing First Nations Exchange, the innaugual Performing Asia program as well as our First Timers program, all offering a deeper engagement for delegates were created.

 

Arts Minister Leeanne Enoch said the Queensland Government was delighted to welcome APAM back to Brisbane in 2018, reinforcing Queensland’s reputation as a world-class arts and cultural destination.

 

“APAM provides the unique opportunity to showcase our local talent to the rest of the world, and I congratulate the six Queensland artists and companies selected to pitch this year, including Bleached Arts, Casus Circus, Dancenorth, Leah Shelton, Queensland Theatre, and Thomas E.S. Kelly,” Ms Enoch said.

“I am also delighted that BlakDance, supported by the Queensland Government, will be providing increased visibility, mobilisation and promote outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander producers and artists at this year’s event.”

Representatives from London International Theatre Festival (UK),  Théâtre National de Chaillot (France),  Tanz in August (Germany), National Arts Centre (Canada) and China Shanghai International Arts Festival will join Brisbane Powerhouse Artistic Director Kris Stewart at one of the most popular activities at the market.  A series of curated ‘Talking Circle’ sessions also provide participants the chance to uncover exciting and up-to-date information about topics and regions relevant to their interests and touring objectives.

 

Brisbane Powerhouse Artistic Director Kris Stewart said Brisbane Powerhouse was once again proud to be hosting APAM Australia’s leading biennial industry event for contemporary performing arts, showcasing the very best performances from Australian and New Zealand.

 

“APAM 2018 is the only arts market that provides international presenters with the opportunity to see and find out about contemporary performance works by Australian and New Zealand arts companies and independent artists. It showcases new Australian performances including First Nations and provides an opportunity to collaborate and secure tours that will wow national and international audiences,” said Mr Stewart.

 

APAM 2018 will be presented at Brisbane Powerhouse with additional events held across local partner venues including the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Sofitel Brisbane Central.

 

APAM 2018 is presented by the Australia Council for the Arts in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse.  Brisbane City Council is the Principal Supporter of APAM. The Queensland Government, through Arts Queensland and Tourism and Events Queensland, also proudly supports the event. A Night Across Asia and the performance by SsingSsing is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Korea Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

 

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21
Jan
18

Matilda Award Nominations 2017

 

2017 Matilda Awards

 

I’m thrilled to have seen across social media, the overwhelmingly positive response to the announcement of the 2017 Matilda Award nominations.

 

Dash Kruck and Emily Burton: A Tribute of Sorts to the Matilda Awards in 2014

 

Tuesday 6th February, 2018 at 6:30pm for a 7pm start at Brisbane Powerhouse. Hosted by Bridget Boyle & Bryan Probets. Directed by Kris Stewart. Dress Code: After Five. Use #matildas17

 

Arts awards are always funny things – I feel like the Matildas, our long-standing performing arts awards in Brisbane, have been criticised more than most and yet, by the winners and nominees they are cited just as often as any other (very funny, that!) – and when we hear and see delight rather than gripes running through our community of artists, it makes it that much more worthwhile to be a part of the process.

 

As well as keeping up (sometimes barely) with our real lives outside of the theatres, we saw 64 eligible productions in 2017. On Tuesday February 6 we’ll find out which of those won the votes from our panel of ten hard-working and highly qualified judges.

 

I have mixed feelings about some dramatic changes to the configuration this year, as applications for all committee positions were welcomed and considered by the Executive Committee before Christmas. I hope it’s understood that the current committee had not been invited to vote or to comment on potential / incoming committee members’ applications (we actually don’t know, unless you’ve told us, who has been up for discussion); the decision is that of the Executive Committee, as per changes made in the interests of transparency, and to see an unbiased changing of the guards, which some industry friends had felt was overdue. However, I’m not sure what the issue with the previous method was, when we had recently welcomed the newest judges, Elise and Anna, after careful consideration as a committee of all applicants (and I think, before I came on board, that this was an invitation-only process, so I’m glad to have been a part of this necessary revision). But it certainly was not the recommendation of the active committee to take this new appointment process completely out of our hands, and it remains to be seen whether or not it’s the most effective means of “refreshing” the judging panel. Having said that, I’m no less excited to see the announcement – any day now, surely – of the 2018 committee members.

 

 

The committee has continued to respond to industry and Arts Queensland feedback in our efforts to add value and share as much as possible about the voting process and also, in our continued efforts to expand the reach of the awards, before the results are announced each year. Here’s a rundown by Deb Wilks of what’s been happening for the last couple of years to ensure the Matilda Awards continue to evolve and to serve the industry they’re designed to support.

 

I’ve adored working with the current panel of judges. Because I have this space in which to do so, I want to thank each of them for making it an absolute joy to attend productions with them over the last few years, and be involved in the highly rigorous voting process, involving lengthy discussions and lots of late nights! What a privilege it’s been to come to know and respect this panel of judges: Elise Greig, James Harper, Annette Kerwitz, Baz McAlister, Troy Ollerenshaw, Cameron Pegg, Olivia Stewart, Rosemary Walker and Anna Yen.

 

 

Nominations

 

One Gold Matilda Award honouring an individual, organisation or creative team for an outstanding contribution to Brisbane Theatre will be announced on the evening of 6th February, 2017.

Silver Matilda Awards will be presented to an artist or company for commendable work in each of the following categories.

 


Best Mainstage Production

American Idiot (shake & stir theatre co and QPAC)
Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
An Octoroon (Queensland Theatre & Brisbane Festival)
Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse (Opera Queensland)

 

 

Best Independent Production

Boys of Sondheim (Understudy Productions & Brisbane Powerhouse)
England (Nathan Booth & Matt Seery at Metro Arts)
Swallow (EG & Metro Arts)
I Just Came to Say Goodbye (The Good Room & Brisbane Festival)
The Forwards (Shock Therapy Productions, Zeal & Brisbane Powerhouse)

 

 

Best Musical or Cabaret

American Idiot (shake & stir theatre co and QPAC)
Boys of Sondheim (Understudy Productions & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Briefs: Close Encounters (Briefs Factory & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Joh for PM (Jute Theatre Company & Brisbane Powerhouse, in association with QLD Music Festival)

Best Circus or Physical Theatre Work

Landscape with Monsters (Circa with Merrigong Theatre Co at Brisbane Powerhouse)
Plunge (Seeing Place Productions in association with Bleach*)
Monsteria (presented by GUSH and Vulcana Women’s Circus in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Humans (Circa & QPAC)

The Lord Mayor’s Award for Best New Australian Work

Blue Bones, by Merlynn Tong
Joh for PM, by Stephen Carleton & Paul Hodge
My Name is Jimi, based on a story by Dimple Bani, Jimi Bani & co-created by Jason Klarwein
Spectate, by Nathan Sibthorpe
Laser Beak Man, by David Morton, Nicholas Paine & Tim Sharp

 

 

Best Director

Daniel Evans, I Just Came to Say Goodbye (The Good Room & Brisbane Festival)
Lindy Hume, Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse (Opera Queensland)
Ian Lawson, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Paige Rattray, Scenes from a Marriage (Queensland Theatre)

Bille Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist

Meg Bowden, The Winter’s Tale (Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble)
Derek Draper, The Lonesome West (Troop Productions at JWCoCA)
Patrick Jhanur, Single Asian Female (La Boite Theatre Company)
Matt Seery, England (Nathan Booth & Matt Seery at Metro Arts)

Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

Ellen Bailey, The Forwards (Shock Therapy Productions, Zeal & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Margi Brown Ash, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Merlynn Tong, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Barbara Lowing, England (Nathan Booth & Matt Seery at Metro Arts)

Best Male Actor in a Leading Role

Sam Foster, The Forwards (Shock Therapy Productions, Zeal & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Bryan Probets, Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse (Opera Queensland)
Colin Smith, An Octoroon (Queensland Theatre & Brisbane Festival)
Steven Tandy, England (Nathan Booth & Matt Seery at Metro Arts)

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Christine Johnston, Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse (Opera Queensland)
Elise Greig, Swallow (EG & Metro Arts)
Helen O’Leary, Swallow (EG & Metro Arts)
Barb Lowing, Joh for PM (Jute Theatre Company & Brisbane Powerhouse, in association with QLD Music Festival)

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Kurt Phelan, American Idiot (shake & stir theatre co and QPAC)
Travis Ash, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Kurt Phelan, Joh for PM (Jute Theatre Company & Brisbane Powerhouse, in association with QLD Music Festival)
Anthony Standish, An Octoroon (Queensland Theatre & Brisbane Festival)

Best Set Design

Georgina Greenhill, The Lonesome West (Troop Productions at JWCoCA)
Josh McIntosh, American Idiot (shake & stir theatre co & QPAC)
Jonathon Oxlade & David Morton, Laser Beak Man (Dead Puppet Society, Brisbane Festival & La Boite)
Simona Cosentini & Simone Tesorieri, My Name is Jimi (Queensland Theatre)

 

 

Best Costume Design

Anthony Spinaze, Rent (Matt Ward Entertainment at Brisbane Powerhouse)
GUSH, Monsteria (GUSH, Vulcana Women’s Circus & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Jessica Haack & Kaylee Gannaway, The Winter’s Tale (Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble)
Anthony Spinaze, Joh for PM (Jute Theatre Company & Brisbane Powerhouse, in association with QLD Music Festival)

Best Lighting Design

Jason Glenwright, Lady Beatle (La Boite & The Little Red Company)
Andrew Meadows, Ruddigore (Opera Queensland)
Geoff Squires, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)
David Walters, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

Best Sound Design

Dane Alexander, I Just Came to Say Goodbye (The Good Room & Brisbane Festival)
Travis Ash, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Tony Brumpton & Sam Cromack (Ball Park Music), Laser Beak Man (Dead Puppet Society, Brisbane Festival & La Boite)
Guy Webster, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

Best Audio Visual Design

Justin Harrison, Laser Beak Man (Dead Puppet Society, Brisbane Festival & La Boite)
Justin Harrison, My Name is Jimi (Queensland Theatre)
Nevin Howell & Nathan Sibthorpe, Spectate (Counterpilot & Metro Arts)
Nathan Sibthorpe, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Nathan Sibthorpe & Ben Knapton, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)

 

 

12
Dec
17

Dance: A Double Bill

 

Dance: A Double Bill

Sarah Aiken & Rebecca Jensen

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

6 – 9 December 2017

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Explorer looks at the material world in relation to the rapidly shifting digital world through an anti-humanist lens … An entitled explorer arrives in a half imagined world of formless potential, navigating a series of shortcuts simulating memories.

Rebecca Jensen

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Aiken looks at how we live in the world, the versions of ourselves we curate, our ouptut, achievements and the versions that others hold of us; how much we control these variants, and how much they shape us.

Sarah Aiken

 

The two works on this program, Sarah Aiken’s Sarah Aiken (Tools for Personal Expansion) and Rebecca Jensen’s Explorer were both finalists in the Keir Choreographic Award for 2016. The Keir Foundation supports new and emerging practitioners across a range of art forms, including contemporary dance.

 

A leaf-blower, enormous pieces of fabric, two mysterious faceless figures, a ball of ice glowing with red light, a ladder, a dead tree branch, and an assemblage of ropes, plastic pipes, styrofoam, and a couple of kitchen bowls all make a surreal appearance in Explorer.

 

As the explorer, Jensen is a strong and striking figure, simply dressed in tracksuit pants and a T-shirt. She navigates a dreamlike path through this mysterious landscape, appearing to be unaware of the two beings (Michael McNab and Harrison Ritchie-Jones) who support her and shape her path.

 

McNab also created the sound for this work, with electronic siren-like noises, oscillating blares of sound, the leaf-blower, and performers hitting the floor, walls, and some of the props with drumsticks.

 

He and Ritchie-Jones work with Jensen to perform arresting physical feats, supporting her as she runs up a wall, and then ‘walks’ along the wall, lying across her partner’s shoulders.

 

Do the two men represent the ‘rapidly shifting digital world’ Jensen mentions in the program notes? They are completely dressed in white, including their heads, looking a little like fencers.

 

One then strips off this outer layer to reveal a similar costume, but made of pale blue fabric marbled in brown and orange. The same fabric, conveying an incongruous old-world elegance, forms a backdrop for Jensen and this figure.

 

It’s hard to interpret Explorer as the program notes describe – for example, ‘The landscape slips in and out of disappearance’ – but Jensen certainly conveys the sense of trying to find her way through a puzzling world, while calmly accepting its challenges.

 

The piece ends more mysteriously than it begins, with Jensen harnessing herself to a collection of random objects, and climbing the ladder towards the suspended ball of ice.

 

In Sarah Aiken’s eponymous work for three female dancers (Aiken herself, Claire Leske and Emily Robinson), her name is heard many times. Each dancer announces the name into a microphone as she appears, and the sound is recorded and played back over and over again, with other voices added later. Muffled bell-like chords are also part of the sound design by Daniel Arnott.

 

The three dancers are dressed in leggings and tops, each in a different shade of pink. The impression is of different attenuated versions of the same person, reinforced by the frequent use of movement in canon.

 

The movement is simple and naturalistic: walking, crawling, kneeling, raising the arms, sitting on the floor and using the hands to shuffle backwards …

 

The action culminates in one of the dancers filming the others, using a smartphone, and projections of the film distort the images, amusingly extending parts of the dancers’ bodies. This image is then carried through back to the dancers, with the arms of the pink costume being stretched to many times the length of human arms.

 

Some of the program notes about this piece are obscure, and grandiose. While Aiken may have intended, for example, that it ‘critiques the gendered occupation of space and the worship of progress, development and continual growth, observing what retracts as we reach further’, this was hard for me to see in the actual performance.

 

In presenting this season, Metro Arts is certainly fulfilling its purpose of championing contemporary arts, supporting artists and providing opportunities for them to show their work to new and existing audiences.

 

29
Nov
17

WURST

 

WURST

Brisbane Powerhouse & Jacqueline Furey

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

November 23 – 25 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

Armed with a lineup of  chiseled “Menu Men”, Jacqueline Furey and her team grace the Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland festival with Wurst: a delicious assortment of meal-themed stripteases and cabaret acts. Hostess Jacqueline Furey sports a collection of glamorous gowns and an elegant demeanor as she serves up the diverse evening of comedic cabaret and beguiling burlesque. A collection of sexy male performers, affectionately referred to as the “Menu Men”, come together to present a selection of bawdy, cheeky and tantalising acts. Be it ballet or hip-hop finesse, an enthralling exhibition of acrobatic ability, or cheeky exploitation of accents, the erogenous men demonstrate their diversity and embrace their distinct backgrounds throughout every performance.

 

Graceful Furey lays out the food-themed showcase like courses in a sexy feast of flavoured variety. From raunchy roast dinners to sweet yet sultry ice cream and milkshake mess for dessert, the show is loaded to the brim with variety to suit a range of tastes. While the focal food theme allows for sweet dance numbers – highlights include a cheeky lollipop trio and a playful whole-body baking demonstration, the showcase unfolds in a staggered progression of underlying premises and unpredictable maturity levels. Performance content may link together with a lens of food or audience devouring of the young men overall, however the ordering of the pieces ensures that one theme, style or performer entices the audience with distinctive substance and well paced deliveries. The acts also range in stimulating intensity and physical exposure, keeping the audience on their toes during unpredictable skits during what could have been a predictable lineup of repetitive strip sequences.

 

 

The only downfall of the work is the choice to include two considerably similar hip-hop dance sequences. Perhaps the recent Magic Mike popularity justifies the inclusion of one clichéd grey-singlet adorned, hip-hop dance work to break up the indulgent food-based content, however two in an evening offered little more than diverting movement. The two acts also lacked in the striptease element that the show promises, leaving audiences calling out for more if only to match the physical reveal reached in the other acts. This audience teasing helped to rekindle appetites for the remaining performances mid-show, but unfortunately rendered the respective floor grinding and muscle manipulation uncanny and undistinguished.

 

Gender blending Raven and physically diverse Dan are the standout Menu Men of the night, offering up twists to traditional role archetypes and stretching the recipe for where the evening’s content could reach. Traditionally handsome and classically trained Dan Venz plays with the subtle eroticism of his ballet body and the assets that come with tight-fitting white stockings. In stark contrast is Raven sporting a dramatic white mask with intense lashes and black crosses over his nipples while performing as the night’s stand alone drag queen. With a shocking opening 50s housewife skit exploring roast chicken sensuality and a dominatrix dog training session breaking comfort levels at the lineup’s climax, Raven’s acts were definitely the most provocative and potent.

 

 

Amongst the diversity and intensity of the male acts, the night’s hostess’ performance was equally as praiseworthy. Despite an innuendo segment being delivered overdone for a contemporary cabaret context, Furey’s overall performance is elegant and erotic from start to finish. However, amongst poised audience captivation, it is Furey’s humane responses to audience heckling and humble admittance to hilarious speech stumbles that pushes her performance beyond a stale, simplistic cabaret host that is seen far too often. Furey entices her audiences with glamour and prowess but truly wins them over with her sassy humanity and well-timed sense of humour.

 

With rich yet simplistic costumes and stage design the production focuses on the raw attraction of the performers and their presence on stage. By combining an array of performance strengths and fusing together styles and techniques from both cabaret and burlesque, Wurst forefronts the power of simplicity and reinforces the joy of a playful night at the theatre.

 

03
Oct
17

Under Siege

Under Siege

Brisbane Festival & Philip Bacon Galleries

In Association With QPAC

September 27 – 30 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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You are surrounded by enemies you cannot see.

 

You ambush me. I ambush you.

 

Yang rewrites the epochal tale known in Chinese opera and lore as Farewell My Concubine with a high-octane mix of performers from ballet, hip-hop, kung-fu and Peking opera. Under Siege is an extraordinary feat of theatre, a visual and kinetic treat that sears the senses.

 

Under Siege is her stunning vision of the climactic battle between Chu and Han armies – an encounter that changed the course of Chinese history – and a love story between the besieged warlord Xiang Yu and his self-sacrificing concubine that would transcend death.

 

Beneath thousands of suspended steel blades a climactic battle rages; the Battle of Gaixia will change the course of Chinese history. Two mighty, ambitious warlords stake everything for the ultimate prize. A legendary beauty will prove that love and loyalty outlive death.

 

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20 000 pairs of scissors hang and clank and descend and rise and bend and arc above the stage, inciting a gamut of emotions and creating all the settings of an epic story across time and space until – spoiler alert – thousands fall to the floor, clattering and settling amongst nearly naked bodies and delicate red death feathers.

 

Yang Liping (Artistic Director / Choreographer) worked with Oscar winning designer, Tim “costume is always related to movement” Yip (Visual Director / Set & Costume Designer), to create her first full-length work, a visual degustation befitting a Chinese battle tale told through contemporary dance, martial arts and delicious design aspects you won’t see anywhere else.

 

Under Siege is undoubtedly the most visually arresting show of the year, premiering here for Brisbane Festival before it moves to Melbourne Festival. The changing colours of the sea of scissors, and the final spectacular image of flailing, dying bodies falling beneath a flurry of feathers are just two of the moments to leave a lasting impression.

 

The visual splendour and physical specificity of this production is unparalleled, featuring elegant balletic traditions, blurring the lines between Eastern and Western styles, juxtaposed against fierce, angular sequences, which to my eyes are more in keeping with Wayne McGregor’s second instalment of Woolf Works, but which draw from ancient Chinese operatic, martial arts and dance traditions. There are fluid formations created by an ensemble of warriors, in all-black-everything, moving as one, twisting and somersaulting and throwing themselves across the space and over one another. And there are the tribal tendencies and shadow selves / bipolar characters of others (Han Xin, for example, the brilliant tactician who struggles with opposing loyalties), lunging and reaching across the floor, holding the liminal space and our wonder…are they even really there?

 

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A virtuosic physical performance is delivered by the tall, slim, graceful He Shang as the Western Chu’s Xiang Yu; he presents just like Dairakudakan’s principal dancer, Daiichiro Yuyama, who made such an impression on us in Japan. The Han’s Liu Bang (Gong Zonghui) is shorter, cheekier, and bounds around, playing games with his rival that involve balances and counter balances, and stomping one foot in front of the other’s, to get ahead of one another, eliciting delighted chuckles from the audience.

 

The Concubine, a role traditionally played by a man (and yet, unforgettably by Gong Li in the 1993 film Farewell My Concubine), is the sublimely beautiful male dancer, Yu Ji (Hu Shenyuan), dressed ceremoniously in red by (her) attendants. He’s an astounding, contorting, arresting physical beauty, almost defying description and leaving us quite breathless with the performance of the night.

 

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Wang Yan, a woman in white sits downstage in one corner for the duration, cutting masses of paper into snowflakes and Chinese symbols depicting the names of the characters, while the Narrator, Qiu Jirong, also clad in white, leads us across time and space into the epic battle and safely out of it again. There’s an element of The Never-ending Story and the Empress here, although the story is their own and in fact, there are never enough surtitles to tell the non-Chinese audience exactly what’s happening. Does it matter? Not really. It’s enough to take in the beauty of each stunning  image, and understand that the rivalry for power and prestige has existed for an eternity. It’s precisely what we continue to witness in contemporary contexts around the world, without the elegance and ravishing beauty of a full-scale theatrical production.

 

With a shorter opening sequence (we sit and listen to the overture for eight minutes or more while the house lights stay up, surely an oversight), and a story made more accessible to Westerners, Liping’s first full-length piece might enjoy a broader audience here. As it is, 100 minutes of Under Siege reminds us just how exquisitely beautiful the violence of past events can be made to appear.




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