Archive for the 'Dance' Category

19
Nov
19

Matrix

 

Matrix

Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and Beijing Dance/LDTX

QPAC Playhouse

November 13 – 16 2019

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

 

Through the power of cultural exchange and flow of creative understanding, we demonstrate how artistic relationships foster appreciation of diversity and empathy across borders, making our world a better place.

Amy Hollingsworth, Artistic Director, EDC

 

Matrix is the latest development in Expressions Dance Company’s (EDC’s) five-year Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project, begun in 2015 under the leadership of former Artistic Director Natalie Weir, and carried forward under current Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth.

 

In this project, EDC has been working with companies led by Willy Tsao, currently Artistic Director of Beijing Dance/LDTX. The Matrix double bill is the second collaboration between EDC and Beijing Dance/LDTX, the first being in 2011 with the work First Ritual.

 

 

The 20 dancers of the combined companies (6 from EDC and 14 from Beijing Dance/LDTX) have worked with choreographers Stephanie Lake from Australia, and Ma Bo from China to create two very different pieces: Auto Cannibal and Encircling Voyage. The Brisbane season follows a five-week development period in China, and performances in Cairns and Queanbeyan.

 

While the two works are different, there are some basic similarities. They both use the dancers to great effect in coalescing and fragmenting groups, often with the whole 20 dancers on stage. When the whole group moves with everyone very close together, the impression is of different parts coming together to form one whole — like a flock of birds, or a herd of animals, or some colonial organism.

 

With a run time of 25 minutes, Lake’s Auto Cannibal is just over half the length of Ma’s 45-minute Encircling Voyage. While there are pauses, and places where the action freezes, the overall impression is of relentless, synchronised action, driven by the strong rhythms and the snapping, pounding, croaking, and breathing sounds of Robin Fox’s electronic music, composed for this work.

 

In contrast, Ma’s work is overall more contemplative, although there are moments of frenzy and intense action. The music, by composer and cellist David Darling, is darkly melodic, and has an epic or heroic quality. The rich sonority of cellos and other string instruments combines with many other sounds (bells, gongs, babies crying, singing) (sound effects by Mao Liang).

 

The look of the two pieces is also contrasting. In Auto Cannibal the dancers wear sporty white singlets and black shorts (costume design by Xing Yameng), and overall the lighting is warmer and brighter, while in Encircling Voyage they wear dappled-grey coat-dresses (costume design by Wang Yan) and the lighting is generally softer and bluer.

 

 

In Encircling Voyage, polished steel benches are used by the dancers as benches, mirrors, and, end-to-end, as a bridge or walkway, while in Auto Cannibal, the stage is bare.

 

In her program notes, Lake explains that she is ‘sometimes afraid I’m repeating myself or cannibalising my own work’ — hence the title Auto Cannibal — but that in this work she celebrates the reusing and reinvigorating of choreographic ideas.

 

The precision and timing in this work, with 20 people pounding out movement absolutely on the beat of the varying rhythms in the music, are euphoric. Sometimes all the dancers are doing exactly the same thing on the beat, at other times different groups are responding at the same time to different rhythms.

 

The movement ranges from swaying hips, rotating shoulders, pulsing the upper body, nodding, waving the arms and wiggling fingers, to making tiny fast tramping steps, lunging, jumping up and down many times, and running. Having a large group making intricate movements very close together multiplies the movement effect, as do the punctuating freezes and pauses, which are also absolutely synchronised with particular rhythms and sounds in the music.

 

 

Following Auto Cannibal (and an interval) on the program, Encircling Voyage is a very different experience. In this work, Ma celebrates the journey from birth to death. She has been quoted as saying that she was inspired by a documentary about migrating birds and their journeys, and also by witnessing the ageing of her parents.

 

Images of ageing — shuffling walks, bent upper bodies, shaking — are interspersed with different impressions of journeying — people trying to head in opposite directions; a group lifting and carrying someone along; people walking along a bridge with tiny quick steps; someone frantically swimming; a large group marching slowly, bending backwards and looking up. The synchronised intricate movement of a large group has a mesmerising effect.

 

In extended lifts and movements such as twirling and falling to the ground, the dancers have a lovely fluidity and pliancy, with exceptionally flexible backs.

 

Near the beginning and end of the work, a small figure walks slowly across the stage holding a book, and we hear a soft voice speaking in Chinese (perhaps reading out the words about an encircling voyage printed in Chinese and English in the program?). The dramatic end represents the death of one of the group, visually accentuated by clouds of symbolic white dust.

 

This is a meditative and moving work, providing a balance to the hyper-energetic Auto Cannibal, and sometimes seeming a little slow after that.

 

In both works, the passion, commitment and precision of the dancers is awe-inspiring. The exhilaration of Auto Cannibal and the contrasting control, flow and expressiveness of Encircling Voyage make Matrix an intense and absorbing experience for the audience. 

 

The collaboration between the artists from the two different companies and two different countries has generated great energy and creativity. What will the Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project bring us in 2020? That’s something to look forward to.

25
Oct
19

Explain Normal

 

Explain Normal

Daniele Constance, AHA Ensemble & Phluxus2 Dance Collective

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

October 17–26 2019

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

What I think we’ve learned in the making of this work is that there’s a whole spectrum of perceived ‘normal’ and normal behaviour. This show is about celebrating the parts of normalcy that we find difficult to reconcile with as well as celebrating our own ‘normalcy’. In this show, we get to decide.

 

Daniele Constance, Director

 

Explain Normal focuses on celebrating people’s abilities and on seeing both their superficial appearance and their fundamental inner qualities. It is moving, but not sentimental, often funny, and surprising in what the characters choose to tell us about themselves or about some aspect of life.

 

This is a collaboration between Phluxus2 Dance Collective and Aha Ensemble, a physical theatre group established in 2015 to support the development of artists living with disability and impairment. The ensemble, and this show, are directed by Daniele Constance.

 

 

Explain Normal is a physical theatre work combining spoken word, movement and contemporary dance, enhanced by some clever electronic technology, and inventive sound and visual design. (Sound and AV design is by Joseph Burgess, photography and videography by Jorge Serra, and lighting by Keith Clark.)

 

In between movement sequences, performers take turns at the microphone, each talking about something very different and unexpected, from ‘normal ways to die’, to lost socks, a one-night stand, and the end of a friendship.

 

The set consists of a moveable framework and platform, screened by clear plastic-strip curtains (like a giant shower cubicle), and a screen backdrop for projection of still and moving images. The nine performers, seven from Aha Ensemble and two from Phluxus2, are dressed simply in everyday clothes — T-shirts, pants, jumpsuits and sneakers. They appear in various combinations as blurred figures inside the cubicle, and moving outside to the floor of the performance space. The contrast underlines the difference between the way we see others without appreciating who they are, and the way we ‘see’ people more clearly as people.

 

 

The creative team (including Constance (Director), Nerida Matthaei (Choreographer), Ruby Donohoe (Assistant Director), Min Collie-Holmes (Dramaturg), and the performers) have created a polished, yet still raw-edged show. The structure and pace I’m sure owe a lot to the input of Dramaturg Min Collie-Holmes: the spoken pieces are mostly very punchy, and the combination of movement and speech, and the flow between them, work well. The recurring theme of superficial impressions contrasting with what’s underneath provides a robust infrastructure, and its strong exposition at the start and end of the show provides a satisfying and energising resolution.

 

 

The show begins with performers seen blurrily through the plastic curtains. Photos of people are projected onto the large screen, and different voices describe them in detail, starting with the words ‘I see …’ and moving from the obvious superficial characteristics (e.g. ‘pink shirt’, ‘blue eyes’) to other, deeper impressions and qualities (e.g. what the person might be feeling). The accompanying sounds are harp-like ripplings.

 

Three performers in turn stand in front of the screen and with their hands trace around the images. As they do so, thick coloured lines are drawn around the images: pink, yellow, pale blue and bright magenta. The characters stand in front of different images, as if trying to fit themselves into the outlines, while other outlines continue to be drawn. The larger the outlines get, the less detail they include.

 

We then hear a rustling noise, and a large figure, in an orange blow-up suit covering every part of the body, strides down the stairs through the audience onto the performance floor. The outline of this grotesque figure is like the rough outlines around the projected images, but we know that there must be a different, more sharply defined person (Nadia Milford) underneath. In an effective movement sequence, the figure dances with a tall young man (Charles Ball), who grapples with it, and hurls it around, giving the impression of trying to get at what’s underneath.

 

In two dream-like sequences, a performer wears a lovely ‘halo’ made of strings of tiny white lights wound into a net-like cap, at first appearing behind the plastic curtains in dim ambient lighting, then coming out to mirror another’s slow waving movements before retreating. Later, Tara Heard is crowned with these lights, appearing as the embodiment of a touching monologue, spoken by another performer.

 

Megan Louise West has a powerful, yet gentle, presence in her initial appearances interacting with the projected photographs, and in her monologue about an intense friendship. Another memorable moment is a solo by Mitchell Runcie, with its raw, jerky movement matched by Joseph Burgess playing strident electric violin.

 

There are some ensemble dance scenes, one featuring two women (Rebecca Dostal and Allycia Staples) who lift others and whirl them around with great ease. A frenetic scene to pounding electronic music has all the performers dancing wildly as if in a club, led by an amazingly energetic Ruby Donohoe. Leading into this, Donohoe has taken the microphone and verbally described a series of images projected at a blistering pace, becoming more frenzied as she goes.

 

Finally, all nine cast members walk up the stairs between the audience and sit on the steps. They pass the microphone around and, each starting with ‘I see …’, make some short observations about the audience (if you are nervous about audience participation, don’t worry – this was a very inclusive experience!). If an audience member shows that they are willing, they might have their own chance to say what they see. None of us put ourselves forward on the night I was there, though.

 

A final, incisive remark rounded off this thoughtful and entertaining work: ‘I see people looking, but what is it that we don’t see?’

 

15
May
19

The Dinner Party

 

The Dinner Party

Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

May 10–18 2019

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Expressions Dance Company

 

Power can be used in many ways and can be misused. I love the famous saying, ‘Power corrupts: absolute power corrupts absolutely’… I invite the audience to decide who really holds the power at this dinner party.

 

Natalie Weir, Choreographer

 

In its first mainstage season this year, Expressions Dance Company is performing The Dinner Party, choreographed by former Artistic Director Natalie Weir. New Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth chose well with this piece, both for its intense theatricality and intricate, breathtaking choreography, and for its gracious tribute to Weir.

 

The Dinner Party is a reworking of Weir’s The Host, performed by EDC in 2015. (Before that, Weir created a version for the Queensland Ballet in 1998.) In the 2015 incarnation, the work had a cast of seven dancers, and four string players of the Southern Cross Soloists performed the music live. The Dinner Party has a cast of six, and the music is recorded.

 

Expressions Dance Company

 

Weir sees the dinner party as a setting for complex interactions between its six characters, involving power, manipulation, domination, submission, love, desire—and some love and consolation.

 

The octagonal black dinner table is the key element of the minimal set. In endlessly inventive choreography, the dancers perform on the table, fly over it in gigantic leaps, huddle under it, move it around, and hang off it tipped on its side.

 

As the central figure of the Host, Jake McLarnon is a towering and dominant presence, his long limbs covering impossible distances. His character is upper-class, wealthy and controlling, but he doesn’t have everything his own way.

 

At first, the Host manipulates the hapless drunk Wannabe (Jag Popham) like a puppet, in some of the more humorous moments of the work. Popham uses his strength and athleticism to create a character of spineless subservience.

 

The Rival (Bernhard Knauer) is a more serious threat. Knauer creates a sense of danger and malicious charm in this role. The struggle between the Host and the Rival is fierce and exciting, as they hurl each other into the air and wrestle, their formal clothing now dishevelled.

 

The callous Rival also toys with the Insecure Party Girl (Josephine Weise). She tentatively wields her sexual power, but is no match for him. Her movements alternate between expansive allure and protective wrapping of arms and legs around herself. With fearless acrobatic strength, contrasting with her fluffy, girly costume, Weise projects her character’s combination of fearfulness and youthful brashness.

 

Expressions Dance Company

 

The Host is involved with two women: the Lover (Isabella Hood) and the Hostess (guest artist Lizzie Vilmanis). The Lover seems to be the least troubled of the characters, although a languorous duo with the Host develops into a competitive trio with the Hostess.

 

The Hostess is a pivotal role, reappearing as a highlighted character throughout. She is a mature woman, obviously of high status, like the Host. This is made very obvious at the start, when she literally walks all over the dinner party guests. In an emotionally charged performance, Vilmanis combines arrogance with sober dignity and a feeling of sadness and regret.

 

The partnering in various duos and trios is thrilling to watch in its daring and control, as bodies wind around each other in unexpected ways, or are hurled through the air. Weir’s choreography is always inventive, and full of physical energy, yet with a sense of refinement rather than violence.

 

Expressions Dance Company

 

The music is appropriately intense and dramatic. The composers are not credited, but include Prokofiev.

The costumes by Brisbane fashion designer Gail Sorronda are various combinations of black and white, and perfect for the characters: formal suits for the men, with black tails for the Host and white for the Rival; elegant long black net and ruffles for the Hostess; a very short ruffled black outfit for the Party Girl; and sophisticated filmy white and black for the Lover.

 

Expressions Dance Company

 

The lighting by Ben Hughes is moody, suitable for a dinner party, with occasional piercing shafts of light illuminating key moments and characters.

Following the Brisbane season, regional audiences will have the chance to see The Dinner Party. It will tour for 6 weeks (from 28 May to 6 July) around Queensland and New South Wales, and to Darwin and Alice Springs.

 

Dinner Party – Trailer from Expressions Dance Company on Vimeo.

28
Feb
19

Turbine

 

Turbine – the return

Collusion Music & Dance Ensemble

Queensland Academies Creative Industries (QACI) Theatre

Friday February 22 2019

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Collusion’s show Turbine returned to Brisbane for one performance only, on Friday February 22 this year, after premiering in May 2018. Since then, a substantial excerpt has also been performed in September 2018 at the DANCESTAGES: Shanghai Dance Festival. The music for the performance in Shanghai was partly recorded, rather than performed live by violinists Benjamin Greaves and Camille Barry, and the composer Thomas Green.

 

At the Brisbane Powerhouse, Turbine was performed in traverse mode (the audience seated on two sides of the performers, and on the same level) in the intimate setting of the Turbine Studio. The latest performance at the QACI Theatre in Kelvin Grove was in a proscenium arch setting, with the audience at more of a remove from the action on stage.

 

While some of the raw immediacy of the physical action was lost, the show made a more powerful impression as a whole. With the stage that little bit further away, we in the audience could see all the performers at once, rather than shifting attention, say, between the music and the dancers. The musicians were more prominent visual presences as performers (particularly Thomas Green on electronics), complementing the power of their sound. (Note that I was sitting only a few rows from the front. My impressions may be different from those of people sitting much further back.)

 

The athleticism, commitment and expressiveness of dancers Gareth Belling, Michael Smith and Jacob Watton were as impressive as in the premiere – with an additional assurance and a sense of their performances and roles maturing since the first showing of Turbine in 2018.

 

08
Dec
18

EDC’s New Artistic Director: Amy Hollingsworth

 

Brisbane’s Expressions Dance Company (EDC) has announced the appointment of Amy Hollingsworth as its new Artistic Director.

 

Marian Gibney, Chairman of EDC’s Board said, “We are delighted to welcome Amy Hollingsworth to the artistic leadership of EDC. Amy has presented the Board with an exciting vision for the future of the company as we look ahead to the 2020’s. Amy brings to the role her recognised talent, experience within the national and international dance sectors, and a commitment to both excellence in dance and in broadening the reach of the company, within our local community and beyond. ”

With over 20 years’ experience as a dancer, choreographer, director and industry advocate, as well as in film and dancer education, Amy is highly regarded for her passion and leadership within the Australian dance industry.

Taking up the position in January 2019, Amy will replace outgoing Artistic Director, Natalie Weir. Amy said she is honoured to assume the artistic leadership of one of Australia’s most respected contemporary dance companies. “I am deeply committed to building on the legacy created by Natalie and her predecessor, Maggie Sietsma,” she said.

“I cannot wait to step into this role with vigor and passion to deliver a bold fresh new vision. At the heart of my vision for EDC is to lean in to making incredible new work, showcasing the stunning dancers and delighting our audiences, but also to creating an environment for creativity to truly thrive. In this environment, our artists and collaborators will work as a collective, forming a creative tribe where conversations crackle with energy and ideas. We, with the help of our partners, supporters and stakeholders, will make a truly profound contribution to the landscape of dance and more broadly to our community.”

Amy will join EDC following three years as the Creative Associate and Ballet Mistress at Queensland Ballet where her talent as a curator and choreographer was particularly evident through the successful 2017 and 2018 Bespoke seasons.

 

Her vision for EDC includes furthering the company’s respected work in dance education and increasing collaboration opportunities with dancers and other artists to bring exceptional dance to existing audiences and the wider community.

 


Amy Hollingsworth is a multi award winning dancer and director, based in Brisbane and was described by the UK Observer as one of ‘the most compelling and intelligent dancers on the world stage’.

 

Born and raised in Australia and classically trained at The Australian Ballet School, she performed as a leading dancer in companies such as Rambert Dance Company, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Peter Schaufuss Balletten, Bonachela Dance Company, Michael Clark Company, Hofesh Shechter Company, George Piper Dancers and Sydney Dance Company.

With an impressive international performance and creative career spanning large-scale classical ballet to independent contemporary dance, film and pop music, Amy is a highly versatile director of dance with a strong, passionate, musical and emotionally resonant creative voice. Her work in direction and education draws from her background and breadth of experience and is as diverse as the companies that engage her to coach and mentor.

Her achievements outside of her career as a performer are many, but most notably she was a founding member of Bonachela Dance Company and Assistant Director. She then excelled in her roles as Dance Director for Sydney Dance Company and then Rehearsal Director for Expressions Dance Company before joining Queensland Ballet as Ballet Mistress and Creative Associate in 2016. Her skills in the development of choreographers, eye for detail and coaching excellence of dancers has been widely noted and critically acclaimed.

Amy has also choreographed numerous works, has been involved in the production of dance films and worked across commercial industries. In addition to her credits as a performer, coach, director and creative associate, Amy is a sought-after keynote speaker at dance industry events, and is currently the Chair of Brisbane’s Supercell Dance Festival.