Archive for the 'Dance' Category

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.

02
Dec
18

Depthless

 

Depthless

The Farm

Judith Wright Centre

November 30 – December 1 2018

 

Reviewed by Shannon John Miller

 

 

Six lights pinned to the proscenium blanket the stage in a rich, dark purple hue. A drum kit sits to the right, where a mess of guitar effects pedals, and chords are strewn across the floor in the shape of a crescent moon ending in amplifiers upstage. But everything is side-on, and to the right as if we’re about to view a concert from the wings.

 

A man, Guy Webster, appears from the darkness gently playing a simple riff on an acoustic guitar, and channelling Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, adding poetry and lyrics. A light in the far corner swings like a lighthouse, bathing the audience in film noir. And behind that light a genderless form emerges, Harman, languishing upon the ground, as if being moulded from clay.

 

 

She then appears in a short gold, sequinned dress and deliberately toys with clichés of feminine beauty, fantasy and desire. Her movement is expressive and infantile, conjuring the tragic Hollywood princesses; Munroe, Lana del Rey, and Lolita.  However, these skins are abandoned and replaced by Denham and deeper more emergent cravings. And the electric guitar becomes a site of male power of which Harman seeks to possess and subvert. A rock battle ensues, with Harman and Webster’s dispute conveyed through a breathtaking pas de trois between them and the electric guitar.

 

Running just under an hour, we’re treated to a uniquely performative rock odyssey. Harman, fully embodies the defiant muse, desperate, through expressive movement, to break free of both artistic assumptions of her sex, and the confines of her musical creator, Webster. Harman’s choreographic process is seemingly limitless in her ability to communicate physically. She leaps exquisitely from a sumptuous, lilting naivety to a worldly, violent grace, while playing on the audience’s assumptions of women’s roles in art, sex and dance.

 

And she is a worthy adversary to Webster, a remarkable musician who pushes his acoustic and electric guitars past their limits, even if at times a little too loudly. He experiments with every conceivable part of the instrument from arpeggios, to plucking strings of the pegboard, and torturing it in distortion with his many implements. It’s as if the guitar is a third character in this two-hander. He draws from the guitar a soulful grotesqueness, then resolves dissonances with recourse to musical energy evocative of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Hans Zimmer. At one point, he repeatedly launches the guitar across the stage, dragging it back by its chord like the god Sisyphus punished for all eternity to roll a boulder up a hill.

 

There is real conflict and tension here as one artist seeks to assert dominion over the other’s right to possess the guitar. Webster, trying to preserve a status quo as Harman remains unyielding in what is a beautifully engineered tug of war. We, the audience are in the crossfire, and it’s our expectations of what we suppose to be gendered artforms that are challenged, and at stake.

 

 

While the work is supreme, the structure could be tightened of unnecessary dramatic pauses. Yet even still at its zenith, the work explodes in a drum kit-fuelled frenzy of anger and joy; an ex-machina soothed only by a fragile reverie. But who will surface victorious?

 

Ballads by multi-ARIA award winning musician Ben Ely of Regurgitator, are beautiful and while seemingly unrelated, are perfunctory as is the dialogue to the play, because the central narrative is the politics of movement between Harman and Webster. This unique work is more than just showcasing two talented performers, but an important commentary on the state of the art, and audiences’ oppressive demands on what is entertainment.

 

 

 

15
Oct
18

Everyday Requiem

 

Everyday Requiem

Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

October 12 – 20 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

I have tried to approach this work with a sense of nostalgia for the past, but even more, with a sense of what is important in moving forward for a 70-year-old man. Forgiveness, acceptance, love and family — surely that is what is important.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, EDC

 

 

In making Everyday Requiem, the singers and I have aimed for simplicity and beauty, interacting with jarringly everyday imagery.

Gordon Hamilton, Artistic Director, The Australian Voices

 

 

Everyday Requiem is choreographer Natalie Weir’s final signature work for Expressions Dance Company as Artistic Director. After 10 years, in which the company has grown and developed under her leadership, and in which she has created a string of outstanding works, she is moving on to a new phase of her life and career.

 

Everyday Requiem is the story of 70 years in the life of an ‘ordinary man’, reflecting the way our lives are complex mixtures of mundane routine, everyday joys and disappointments, ecstatic happiness and shattering tragedy.

 

 

Vocal ensemble The Australian Voices is an integral part of this work, performing an a cappella vocal score by their Artistic Director and composer, Gordon Hamilton. The six singers not only sing with a moving purity of tone and faultless diction: they also act, they engage with the dancers, and perform some demanding choreographed movement while singing. Isabella Gerometta, one of the singers, subtly conducts the ensemble.

 

Their vocal performance includes interesting effects and techniques such as harmonic chant, and singing while gargling. Snatches of text from the traditional Latin requiem appear in among more banal, everyday words, such as lists of items from a schoolbag, and pet names used by lovers. A song by Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal also runs through the work.

 

The focal point of Everyday Requiem is the Old Man, played by guest artist and veteran dancer, choreographer and actor Brian Lucas. He looks back on his life, seeing its progression from childhood to youth and first love, to maturity, marriage and fatherhood, and on to middle and old age.

 

 

Lucas is a tall and commanding figure, but projects great warmth and tenderness in this role, conveying a wisdom born from hard experience, and a yearning for happy moments in the past while appreciating the present. He has a powerful stage presence.

 

The choreography for dancers playing the roles of people in the Old Man’s past is intensely athletic, fluid and expressive, with duos full of inventive lifts that flow naturally out of the movement. Mixed in with the complex movement are repeated motifs of simpler, more everyday ones, such as slow dancing, and playing the child’s ‘hand over hand’ game.

 

Jag Popham is a playful incarnation of the character’s Infancy and Childhood, showing a strong bond with his Mother, Australian Voices member Sophie Banister, who evokes a tender affection that is one of the enduring themes of the life story. (There is no Father character.) Humour springs from the playfulness in the movement and music, the vocal text introducing the refrain of names of items in a child’s schoolbag.

 

Jake McLarnon is strong and intense as the Adolescent and Young Man, very much resembling a younger version of Lucas. His duos with Isabella Hood, as his Young Love, are athletically lyrical, showing an awakening passion. The duos become trios when the Brother (Scott Ewen), compounding earlier sibling rivalry, steals the girlfriend. Ewen plays the cocky, bullying brother with relish, and portrays a later reconciliation with great sincerity.

 

The Young Man marries The Wife, played by guest artist Lizzie Vilmanis. Vilmanis is EDC’s Rehearsal Director, a former company dancer, and also now an independent artist. Standing in for an injured Elise May, she is wonderful in this role. Technically strong, fluid and precise, she expresses all the emotions of the role without histrionics, but making a powerful impact.

 

As the Mature Man, Richard Causer projects a brooding physicality and frozen anguish on his return from war. While his relationship with his wife remains strong, the difficult relationship with his daughter (Alana Sargent) is a key part of the ongoing story. Causer and Vilmanis are well matched, and generate a heart-wrenching intensity of emotion. The daughter is the character most overtly expressing emotions, which Sargent does with speed and abandon.

 

There is a note of optimism and recovery all through Everyday Requiem, and it finishes with a moving 70th birthday party. The large group of nostalgic and happy party guests are older dancers from WaW Dance (a Brisbane ensemble of mature-aged dancers led by Wendy McPhee and Wendy Wallace).

 

The set and costume design (Bill Haycock) and lighting design (David Walters, assisted by Christine Felmingham) are simple and very effective: a dark backdrop is sometimes lit to glow dark gold, and tables and chairs are shifted around in different configurations.

 

The singers wear white, and the male dancers wear conservative pants, shirts and jackets in neutral colours with touches of black, and jungle greens for a war scene. The women’s costumes stand out as touches of colour: a salmon-pink cardigan for the Mother, a full-skirted 1960s yellow dress for Young Love, a dark-red plaid dress for the Wife, and a light denim blue for the Daughter.

 

 

On the first night, the performance was briefly interrupted by a fire alarm at a significant moment. However, this was soon forgotten as everyone involved in the performance drew us straight back into the story.

 

After the emotional and celebratory conclusion of Everyday Requiem, the first-night audience leapt to their feet in a standing ovation, clapping, whooping and cheering in response to the performance, and to Natalie Weir in particular. It was a well-deserved acknowledgement of a stunningly beautiful work that pierces the heart with joy, sadness, and ultimately celebration. It was also a fitting tribute to Weir herself and her achievements as a choreographer and Artistic Director.

 

24
Sep
18

DUST

 

Dust

Dancenorth & Liminal Spaces

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

September 19 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Upon birth, we arrive into a world in which those who precede us determine everything.

 

From this lottery of birth we inherit the architecture of both restriction and opportunity in countless manifestations. Structures, barriers and borders pre-exist, and past tense illuminates both our present and future thinking…

 

Dancenorth

 

Dancenorth’s work Dust premiered at this year’s Brisbane Festival. It is inspired by weighty and solemn concepts, outlined by directors/choreographers Kyle Page (Dancenorth’s Artistic Director) and Amber Haines (Associate Artistic Director) in their program notes.

 

Page and Haines are married and have a baby son, whose birth last year led them to contemplate ‘the architecture of inheritance’, and to think about the present, past and future worlds, and how we shape these worlds and they shape us.

 

In the post-performance Q&A on opening night, Page referred to the set for Dust, designed by Liminal Studio, as ‘another performer’. It dominates this work. At first, a large, wedge-shaped wall looms over the performers. Angled across the stage, it separates one dancer (Ashley McLellan) from the six others (Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson and Jack Ziesing). The themes of barriers, restrictions, insiders/outsiders and inclusion/exclusion continue throughout the work.

 

The power of the soundscape matches that of the set. Created by composer/sound designer Alisdair Macindoe and Canadian composer/musician Jessica Moss, it surges, booms and pounds, ebbing to quieter moments with sounds like bells, harmonic chanting, droning, and distorted voices calling.

 

Threading their way among the recorded electronic sounds are echoes of Middle Eastern and Eastern European music. Moss plays the violin live during the show, electronically modifying the sound of her instrument.

 

Early on, the dancers dismantle the wall into its constituent box-like blocks. As the work progresses, they move the boxes into various configurations: a ramp, a pile of rocks, a low wall around the stage perimeter, and parallel rows of columns.

 

The action continues with duos and solos while this happens, but shifting the boxes takes up much of the dancers’ time and effort. (The dancer representative at the Q&A, Felix Sampson, confirmed the impression that the blocks are heavy.)

 

 

Once the arrangements of blocks are in place, striking images are created by the dancers moving and posing on and round them. A group moves and stands on a ramp, while a lone man creeps alongside. A woman stands and lifts her arm, like a priest or an ancient oracle. A group of dancers bow and abase themselves to a pile of blocks; one woman walks slowly among them and they follow her.

 

It is as if we are witnessing some ancient ritual in a sacred space. This effect is accentuated by the configuration of the Powerhouse Theatre, with the audience in tiers of seats rising above the stage, as in an Ancient Greek theatre.

 

The dancers perform heroically, and one can only wonder at their energy. The quality of movement is athletic and grounded, fluid at times and jerky and robotic at others. McLellan in particular impresses with her intensity, strength and fluidity.

 

The pattern of the movement is full of circles: for example, using the impetus of whirling around in lifts, or rotating on the spot like a dervish, or running in circles, and people circling each other. The group of dancers sometimes huddle in a circle, moving in close action and reaction to each other, like a flock of birds. They also undulate in slow motion, like a group of sea creatures. There is a great deal of floor work.

 

 

The lighting (Niklas Pajanti) is subtle, often quite dim, with simple minimal colours that correspond well with the cosmic soundscape and the monumental set – such as gold, and pink strengthening to red. These are the only touches of colour other than shades of grey (for the backdrop, the wall, and the costumes).

 

The costumes (Harriet Oxley) are lovely. In contrast to the dominating set and the sound, and more aligned with the mood of the lighting, they are delicate and almost transparent. Of fine, pale, lightly patterned fabric, the combinations of tunics, wide pants, long skirts, and sleeveless tops are reminiscent of Ancient Greek or Roman draperies.

 

The whole creative team was represented on the 9-strong panel for the Q&A (facilitated by Bradley Chatfield, formerly with Sydney Dance Company, and more recently with Dancenorth and the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts). All were very passionate about their particular discipline and about the collaborative process of creating Dust.

 

The different creative elements in this work all make a powerful impression. However, for me they did not gel as a whole: rather, they seemed to be struggling for dominance, a struggle won by the set. At around 70 minutes, the work is not over-long, but is repetitious in parts.

 

In the current drought, the title Dust might first suggest clouds of windblown particles of soil. However, on reflection, the biblical idea that we are all made of dust seems more relevant: ‘… out of [the ground] wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Genesis 3:19).

28
Jun
18

Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

 

Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour

Out of the Box

QPAC Cascade Court

June 26 – July 4 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

The Brisbane Guru Dudu team boasts four energetic and very brightly clad tour guides – Maja Hanna Liwszyc, Stefan Cooper-Fox, Daniel Cabrera and the original Guru Dudu, David Naylor – who take turns to take super fun silent disco walking tours.

 

The concept is not only an Out of the Box smash hit but also, a private-party-in-public-spaces phenomenon sweeping Australian and UK cities.

 

I think we all wish we’d thought of it.

 

We arrive on QPAC’s front steps to be greeted by staff in their black and red, and to greet festival volunteers in their orange. That distinction is deliberate, many of them being a bit shy, or else, not yet in character as Effervescent Festival Vollies. We are issued with a set of headphones each, and instructions to meet Guru Dudu and the green group at the top. Fortunately for punters on the first day, most of QPAC’s staff, being not quite as shy, and a number of them having survived several Out of the Box festivals since 1992, knew a good deal more about where things were and indeed, what things were, than many of the vollies. We’ll put misdirection and reticence down to opening day/night jitters. 

 

We could see our Guru Dudu (Stefan Cooper-Fox) and as soon as we had our earphones in place we could hear him, and that the party had already started! We joined the group and I made a strong offer of a classic disco move. Not being known for my enthusiasm when it comes to audience participation, I’m not sure if it was me or Poppy who was more surprised by this unusual willingness to be involved. Panic at the disco? Having to talk the talk in recent devising sessions? Actually, it’s harder not to join in; the music makes us want to move. This silent dancing/walking caper is hard to resist! It’s actual real-life living-in-the-moment stuff without the memes, instant heightened awareness, just-add-earphones increased confidence, without inhibiting levels of self-consciousness. It’s liberating and laughter inducing.

 

Of course, we’re not really aware of anything happening outside of the world created by Guru Dudu. We realise on some level that without earphones, onlookers don’t know what’s happening; all they know is what they see, which is a group of super confident disco dancers of all ages and abilities having super amounts of uninhibited, silent, silly fun. Going by the raised brows and wide smiles, it must be hilarious to witness. A mum shares her headset with a random woman, her bewildered expression transforming into one of recognition. She knows the song and she suddenly understands the set up. She offers a big smile and double thumbs up, passes back the headset and continues on her way with a new bounce in her step.

 

The song choices are good, with a few of them kitsch enough to be cool – it’s a kids’ festival after all, but the grown ups have to make it through the day with some humour too. The Mission Impossible theme is the first challenge, as we move like Super Spies across the walkway, heading towards the museum and art galleries. Bjork’s Quiet is performed conspiratorially, now that we’ve all bonded during our impossible mission, just as we might expect to see it at an early Wakakirri rehearsal (or an early evening karaoke effort), with parents getting down low to join Guru Dudu and kids, gesturing “SHHH” and singing along, although whether or not any of them are singing the same notes as Bjork is anyone’s guess.

 

Not as popular with the adults as with their children are the more literal song and dance tasks, including being dinosaurs to Katy Perry’s Roar, and dancing like monkeys to a track that was previously unknown to me: Disney Junior’s Big Block SingSong Two Banana Kind of Day. I don’t recommend it.

 

Everyone happily joins a conga line, and takes their turn At the Carwash, although Poppy thinks this one is odd and I remind her that everyone – even the kids of Rydell High – have their variation on a tribal initiation or celebration circle. We wind down with some actual circle dancing, as any sub-culture would, with parents pushing their offspring into the centre, confident that with so much live on-camera experience after this, their children are well and truly ready to be reality television stars. Walk Like An Egyptian garners massive support from tour participants and randoms, and we finish up with a fun free dance and enthusiastic high fives for Guru Dudu.

 

Despite the exquisite pressure of a tight turnaround before the next tour and a couple of unintentionally quiet moments that occur at the push of a wrong button (these are met with merry laughter), Guru Dudu has been relaxed and fun, keeping things moving at a safe, steady, contemporary, public-space-disco pace. It’s been real.

 

There is obviously safety in numbers and everyone feels comfortable to do their very best silly dance moves in a big group. Guru Dudu’s Silent Disco Walking Tour is so much fun. There’s no right or wrong; we’re free to be ourselves and have some uninhibited fun.

 

Guru Dudu is one of the most exciting inclusions in this year’s program, with a terrific payoff for participants and an awesome ongoing opportunity for artists. And the festival is always amazing – you can see its success in the smiles on small faces and the stats in the press – but I miss the amazing festival feeling of previous years, when school groups and families all settled in the sunshine, on the grass by the river, sharing the open outdoor space, a village, a common ground. Without that now, and everything happening instead within the QPAC building and cafe areas, it all feels very safe and neat and contained, a little like the development and support of the arts in this country generally. I mean, it’s hard to believe that there’s a festival on at all. I guess in good weather over the weekend, the Cultural Forecourt will come to life again. 

 

Perhaps Guru Dudu’s tour group will be allowed to venture out into the open then, since this immersive event goes some way to filling the community festival feeling void (The other great crowd event is Dance…Like No One is Watching, don’t miss it!). We’d noticed the first tour group of the day moving through that riverside space, and I can only imagine the reasons to move to a more contained concrete area upstairs (weather and workplace health and safety considerations/risk assessment factors, and comments from carers who would rather not admit that in fact, they’ve always felt a bit insecure in their attempts to wrangle small persons in open spaces). It probably looks easier on paper to take it all inside. But easier is not often better or…funner.

 

 

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said Out of the Box was a great opportunity for Queensland children to engage with amazing arts experiences, to sing, dance, move, play, paint, create and imagine. “With ongoing support from the Queensland Government for more than 25 years, Out of the Box has presented quality performance and cultural activity that celebrates and supports learning, play, and discovery for children,” Minister Enoch said.

“Since the first Out of the Box in 1992, the biennial event has engaged more than one million participants and 3721 artists. It has presented 1534 performances, 2335 workshops and 9461 activities.

“Out of the Box has presented 103 brand new works, some of which have gone on to tour nationally and internationally and creating work for Queensland artists,” Ms Enoch said.

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said the delivery of the biennial Festival and associated community engagement activities connects children with a variety of arts experiences and is a great example of how QPAC inspires our community to talk about broader issues in the world today.

 

 

 

16
Jun
18

4Seasons

 

4Seasons

QPAC, Expressions Dance Company & City Contemporary Dance Company 

QPAC Playhouse

June 14 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

The Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project is more than just a dance exchange. It is an exchange of ideas and an intertwining of culture, with an enormous amount of generosity and respect between everyone involved.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

 

 

A collaboration between Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and Hong Kong’s City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC), 4Seasons is the latest development in EDC’s Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project. Presenting three very different works by three choreographers, it premiered in Hong Kong last month.

 

First on the program is Summer, created by independent choreographer Kristina Chan for the CCDC dancers. She has imagined a future world of fierce heat as global warming worsens, exploring how people react to changed climate.

 

The dancers are already on the stage when we enter the theatre, slowly walking, crouching, and writhing on the floor in silence, under a burning orange light shining through a silk canopy above. They are dressed in black and grey.

 

This is an ensemble work, with no individuals singled out — it is as if we are watching a community of organisms from a distance as they are burnt by fierce heat, blown by gales, and fearfully watch the orange sky.

 

The dancers move in slow motion with great fluidity and control — a population weighed down, moving through an oppressive atmosphere. They huddle together, shielding each other, entwining, collapsing, recoiling, and occasionally running.

 

The music, James Brown’s Summer, is ominous, with long drone-like notes humming and blaring, pounding beats, noises like a helicopter, rumbling, the sound of the wind, and rasping breath.

 

An endpoint seems to arrive when the sky falls and envelops the dancers in a silvery shroud. However, in an anticlimactic final section after a short stillness, some people extricate themselves and crawl away. Others survive to struggle on, with eventually only a lone figure left standing.

 

This work is intense and, despite its apocalyptic vision, at times hypnotically beautiful in a minimalist way.

 

 

Following a very short break (when the audience remains in darkness), the second work on the program begins. Dominic Wong, Assistant Artistic Director of CCDC, created Day after Day on the six EDC dancers and one CCDC dancer, using music by Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter and Patrick Ng.

 

Focusing on partings and reunions, in analogy with changing seasons, it opens dramatically with the group entering quickly, carrying Alana Sargent above them as if she is swimming through waves. Their transparent white pants and blazers contrast with the darkness of the previous work, and accentuate the rapidity and detail of the movement.

 

The EDC dancers dived into this work with great energy and commitment, meeting the demands of an astonishing variety of movement. In a complete change from Summer, this is frenetic and tic-like at first, with scratching movements, heads jerking like birds, little jumps and wriggles, nodding and head shaking. In one section, the thrashing music, white suits and high-energy movement are reminiscent of a nightclub.

 

Behind the EDC dancers, Bruce Wong of CCDC is walking in ultra-slow motion across the back of the stage. With shaved head and almost naked, he is a complete contrast to the other dancers. He suggests the passage of time, or an underlying reality of life with non-essentials stripped away.

 

When Wong turns towards the front of the stage and begins to walk forward towards a column emitting bright white light, the mood changes. The music becomes plaintive and has a singing piano-like tone. The movement of the EDC dancers changes pace, with slow-motion lifts and slow turns. As Wong reaches the column, the work ends. 

 

 

The culmination of the program is the signature work 4Seasons, choreographed by EDC’s Artistic Director, Natalie Weir, for all 20 dancers of both companies. Weir’s music choice is Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, ‘recomposed’ in a contemporary and compelling interpretation by Max Richter.

 

The costumes are in soft colours of pale pink, pale grey-green, burgundy and dark blue that reflect the seasons and look lovely together. In this work, as in the other two, the visual and costume design by Cindy Ho, and lighting by Lawmanray contribute hugely to the different moods and styles.

 

Duos representing each season are punctuated by interludes for the full ensemble. Alana Sargent and Ivan Chan evoked spring and youthful romance, entwining around each other. Bobo Lai and Richard Causer projected the sensuality and storms of summer, matching their power and energy. Elise May and Yve Yu, with long extensions and coiling embraces, savoured the richness and fulfilment of autumn.

 

The winter duo for Qiao Yang and Jake McLarnon was electrifyingly beautiful from the instant it started. In its expression of longstanding love, coupled with a poignant realisation of time running out, the couple seemed to melt and soar in intertwining and folding lifts. It was as if the movement itself had become embodied, rather than bodies putting effort into making movement.

 

Qiao is an extraordinary dancer, whose every move is viscerally expressive. In McLarnon she has an extraordinary partner whose strength, line and feeling complement her perfectly. Their interaction is in essence like that between the two companies: the fluidity, control and speed of the CCDC dancers and the athleticism, attack and broad-brush fluidity of the EDC dancers melding and influencing one another.

 

In full circle, the winter couple is followed by a look back at youth. Felix Ke, one of dancers representing spring, dances a lovely solo with a yearning quality, and many slow-motion acrobatic movements. Rousing ensemble work end 4Seasons on a high note. With the pace and variety in this work, and the quality of the performances, it flew past, ending too soon.

 

The whole program is an inspiring celebration of dance, music and the spirit of collaboration, drawing together so many different elements: Vivaldi, Max Richter, the climate apocalypse, romance, passion, fierce athleticism, transcendent beauty, meditative slowness …

 

Production pics by Cheung Chi Wai