Archive for the 'Dance' Category

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

 

03
Jun
18

Turbine

 

Turbine

Collusion Music & Dance Ensemble

Brisbane Powerhouse

May 23 – 26 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Turbine began life as a meditation on masculinity, climate change and marriage equality. We sought to build a team, a community, and see how it functioned …

Turbine looks into ourselves, our histories and our heritages … It is an exploration of our personal and creative identities …

Gareth Belling, Choreographer

 

Turbine is about struggling with identity so the music needed to be disparate things, coming together. So I looked for broken things. Tarnished, old – with their own sound …

It’s not often when I’m really lost about whether to categorise a work of mine as coming from Praxis Axis or ‘actual me’. This is one of those times: 19th century late romanticism curiously entwined with 21st century glitch and industrial.

Thomas Green, Composer

 

 

Collusion Music & Dance Ensemble’s latest chamber ballet, Turbine, was created for this year’s MELT Festival, an annual celebration of Brisbane’s queer communities, presented by the Brisbane Powerhouse. It explores power and vulnerability, the revealing of identity, being true to oneself, and relating freely and honestly to others.

 

While Turbine started out as a work about gay male identity, choreographer Gareth Belling said in publicity for the show that he and his team realised that issues of power, identity, marginalisation and equality are relevant to all of us.

 

The strength and intensity of the work are heightened by the small performance space of the Turbine Studio, the closeness of the three dancers and three musicians to the audience, and their power and focus. The audience is seated on two opposite sides of the performance space, on the same floor level as the performers. This brings us very close to some very high-energy movement.

 

The dancers (Belling, Michael Smith and Jacob Watton) are a powerful combination. They meet the challenge of this endurance test of a work, but they are sweating and panting by the end.

 

The movement includes many demanding lifts, patterns of throwing, falling, catching and supporting each other, and crashing to the floor, interspersed with moments of tenderness, passion, and complex intertwining of limbs and bodies – in one case, the three bodies interlink and open like a flower. Early in the piece, out-of-sync robotic movement and tinkling fractured music create the effect of broken creatures.

 

The dancers wear black ‘stubbies’ shorts and navy-blue singlets – starkly effective and accentuating the masculine energy of the movement. They also don modified red bike helmets at times – not just on the head, but placed over the face – to represent the masks/armour/shells we all hide behind. The helmets are visually dramatic and transform the dancers into groping, insect-like beings.

 

The impressions of the dancers that stayed in my mind are not only of their athleticism and commitment, but of the characters they portray – Watton projecting a sense of tenderness, hope and openness, Belling an intensity and suppressed anger, and Smith a sense of unhappiness and vulnerability.

 

 

The live music envelops us throughout the performance. Composer Thomas Green (eye-catching in bright red overalls) manages the electronics, and violinists Benjamin Greaves and Camille Barry produce some lush and romantic sound, intensifying at times to wild stridency, or dying away to gentle softness.

 

Green has incorporated the sounds of ‘broken things’ in his composition, including old toys, a music box, and prepared piano. Its mixture of electronic sounds, rich strings, fractured tinkling tunes, and dance music (including a darkly passionate cha cha) swing between joy, passion, tenderness, sadness, darkness and light. The lighting also creates these moods, varying from a red glow, to very bright light exposing the audience (a disconcerting feeling), to darkness lit by a dancer wearing a headlamp.

 

Turbine is a powerful work that makes a big impact. The music and dance complement each other, neither overshadowed by the other.

 

Its title is apt, in that turbines move continuously to produce power (and also, I’m guessing, in its association with the Powerhouse). I’m not sure how it relates to identity, however.

 

At just over an hour long, Turbine could perhaps be pruned a little towards the end to remedy a loss of impetus. A climactic moment about three-quarters of the way through heralded a possible ending. There was a feeling of anticlimax as the performance regrouped, building to another climax and winding down to finish with soft, poignant chords.

 

11
Apr
18

Alchemy

 

Alchemy

Zen Zen Zo & Festival 2018

Southbank Cultural Forecourt

April 5 – 8 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

ALCHEMY is the fourth collaboration between renowned Australian composer/musician Richard Grantham and leading contemporary performance company, Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre. ALCHEMY is an exploration of the ancient process of transforming base metal into gold. A potent metaphor for the Commonwealth Games, ALCHEMY celebrates the journey towards realizing our full potential, and the power of transformation. The dancers move like shamans or spirit walkers along the path, weaving their way through the inspirational soundtrack, until they finally “spin out of nothingness scattering stars like dust” in the dramatic climax. This is a moving performance work that is a meditative homage to the long passage towards greatness.

 

The highlight of Brisbane’s Festival 2018 – a performing arts program staged at Southbank Cultural Forecourt to coincide with the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – was Alchemy, a little show with a lasting impact, bringing butoh back to Brisbane.

 

Zen Zen Zo’s ALCHEMY brings our imagination and our senses to life, melding startlingly original live music – a living, breathing, beating-heart score – and ancient movement to stir our souls, light our hearts and transform our view of ourselves in the world.

 

 

Alchemy is a stunning sensory contemporary performance showcasing Zen Zen Zo’s unique brand of movement and original live music to create a world in which audiences feel free to lose themselves in wonder, and linger in a soulful, joyful experience long after the lights have gone down.

 

Undergoing some transformation themselves, the company has focused on the training arm of the business for a number of years, and also on developing new projects including taking to New Zealand for the first time, their renowned rigorous actor training residency, Stomping Ground, and reconfiguring their popular internship program for inclusion in the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Master of Professional Practice (Performing Arts)

 

This production boasts a current student of the course and two graduates from the inaugural year in 2017 (and this review is written by another!), further testament to Lynne Bradley’s proven track record of training and mentoring multi-skilled performing artists of the highest calibre in this country and overseas. 

 

USC would do well to start shouting about their Masters courses in Performing Arts and Creative Writing

 

 

Alchemy sees a continuation of the collaborative relationship between Zen Zen Zo and composer/musician, Richard Grantham, and brings on board another couple of gifted Australian composers in Iain Grandage (When Time Stops, With Love and Fury, The Rabbits, The Secret River) and the Sunshine Coast’s Joshua Curtis.

 

While DUSK had a festival audience entranced during its meditative moments, Alchemy lures with more potent force an entirely new crowd to its cross-cultural open-air experience, fusing traditional butoh and contemporary classical music by way of an original composition, and a compelling performance by Curtis.

 

With the addition of Grantham’s viola crying and lilting and lifting its exquisite voice, the bold essence of this work takes us beyond ordinary and into ecstasy before we’re released and dropped gently back into a more contemplative place. Incredibly sensual and cinematic in some of its transitions, the music resulting from this meeting of minds is a truly evocative gift. Even re-reading, it sounds as if I’m overstating the fact…until you’ve heard it. And you’ve not heard anything like it since the pairing of Aaron Hopper and Kacey Patrick-Bare AKA Stringmansassy (Aaron’s stunning solo album is available on iTunes).

 

 

But first, without a sound, other than the murmurs of the audience members as they – the children first, always the children first – look up to take in white painted performers in lush costumes of red and silver layered robes (designed by Bill Haycock) and red full-circle skirts beneath (designed by Kaylee Gannaway, who very kindly made me a black one for opening nights…and for twirling), the performers, elegant and other-worldly, slow-walk to take up positions against the city lights and the ever-changing Brisbane River.

 

While this is a perfectly picturesque backdrop for a 20-minute public performance as part of a larger event, the open-air venue is less than ideal. Performance spaces placed too closely together left techies with little control over the sound bleeding from multiple stages, resulting in competing productions rather than a program of complementary and perfectly timed events to be seen and appreciated as separate entities.

 

With so many years of successful Brisbane Festival outdoor staging inside the same perimeter, you’d think there’d be enough experience on the ground to avoid any rookie errors. But the opening night performance was unable to go ahead due to the sound from the nearby Orbit Stage drowning out Alchemy’s soundtrack and thus, the performers’ cues, and adding insult to injury, show times throughout the weekend were continuously updated in a last-ditch effort to solve the problem. It’s actually amazing that anyone at all found themselves in the right place at the right time to experience Alchemy.

 

If you missed it (or if you saw it and loved it), get onto the company’s Facebook page or send an email and demand its return. There’s nothing quite like a return season by popular demand! While you’re at it, demand that it also comes to Ocean Street and NOOSA alive! (The only footage available for the moment is embedded below, a sneak peek at rehearsal, very brightly lit!).

 

It’s interesting to note that during the process, a question arose around the “pop-up” nature of the work, with the assumption perhaps that a public performance would be (should be?) light and funny. Hmmm… The company’s Artistic Director and director of this production, Lynne Bradley, responded, “We do do comedy, but everything we do is attempting to dig deeper, not flit across the surface of life.”

 

Indeed, the performers resist flitting and move fluidly, like liquid gold, with Gina Limpus contributing warm vocal harmonies to complement Curtis’s early melody before joining other accomplished physical performers, Travis Wesley and Jamie Kendall, in an extended sequence of the fluttering (fluttering being vastly different to flitting), floating, falling, rising and twirling that had us entranced during DUSK, as well as sharper, more angular and deeply grounded gesture. Limpus is captivating and not just because she’s front and centre, holds the audience gaze with ease.

 

WE COME SPINNING OUT OF NOTHINGNESS

SCATTERING STARS

LIKE DUST.

RUMI.

 

Zen Zen Zo’s signature performance style begs us to respond emotionally rather than letting us off the hook with an easy narrative. When asked about this type of very visceral contemporary performance, we’re likely to respond with “It was beautiful!” or “It was amazing!” or “It was so moving…” without being able to explain exactly what it was about. The intention is not to offer just one hero’s story with its happy ending but to inspire and slightly – or deeply – unsettle, urging us to look inwards and to consider our own stories, recognising which of those are limiting or damaging, and which will help us not only to survive in this world of overload, but to thrive and find our way to gold. 

 

 

Images by XS Entertainment

#iPhoneonly

 

13
Mar
18

Converge

Converge

Expressions Dance Company

With Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University

Conservatorium Theatre, South Bank

March 10 – 17 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Programs such as Converge are essential—a choreographer not only has to have talent, they need to practise their art; it is through these experiences that they can learn their craft and develop distinct choreographic voices for now and into the future.

Natalie Weir

Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

 

In its Converge program, Expressions Dance Company gives four choreographers a chance to create new works, as well as to collaborate with emerging composers and an ensemble of 16 musicians performing live on stage. This is the Queensland Conservatorium’s first such opportunity to work with a contemporary dance company, and a rewarding experience for performers and audience alike.

 

The first piece on the program is by Melbourne-based Stephanie Lake, who is now an established choreographer with her own company. Her high-energy Ceremony, originally conceived as an abstract expression of the music (by György Ligeti, Chinary Ung, Javier Alvarez and Steve Reich), evokes the intricacies of fast-moving machinery, its pace and varying rhythms sweeping the audience along with it.

 

 

Ceremony is an exhilarating experience, particularly the sequence for the dancers alone, using body percussion and breath, followed by the hypnotic energy of Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood. Together, the six dancers and the musicians create complex rhythms, intertwining movement and patterns of coalescing and unfolding with magnetic precision and energy. The green and white costumes designed by company member Alana Sargent — tunics, shorts, kilts and Tshirts or singlets — have a sporty style that suits the energetic movement.

 

Of the four works in Converge, Lake’s is the most polished and tightly connected to the music.

 

Second and third on the program are works by two of Expressions’ own dancers: Richard Causer and Jake McLarnon. Causer worked with composers Isabella Gerometta, Padraig Parkhurst and Michal Rosiak, and McLarnon with Tanya Jones and Jarvis Miller.

 

 

Causer’s Imposters is about layers of identity, and how we show different layers in different circumstances. Sargent’s costume design contributes to the visually intriguing expression of this idea: pale orange lampshade-shaped skirts with a reinforced hoop in the hemline can be inverted to conceal the dancers’ upper body and heads.

 

A pile of lemons was another symbol of layered identity, the lemon’s enticing colour and smell concealing its sourness and bitterness. The dancers bite into the fruit and spit out chunks onto the floor. (Was this inspired by Will Holt’s 1960s song Lemon Tree with its refrain Lemon tree very pretty …?)

 

 

Elise May is a powerful figure in this work, crouching amongst the lemons, shielding her face, and showing a fear of the other five cast members, which is reciprocated. At times, the dancers appeared to be performing a surreal ritual, twirling like dervishes in their long skirts.

 

Jake McLarnon’s Isochronism is a promising choreographic debut. This duo expresses the theme of performing movements at the same time, or, like a pendulum, performing the same movement within the same time irrespective of how big the movement is – like dancers of different sizes when dancing in time to music. McLarnon also refers to the work of artist Jasper Hills as an inspiration for his piece.

 

 

The movement is athletic and close knit, and on first night was danced by Scott Ewen and McLarnon with a masculine power and energy. It would be interesting to see how the duo differs when danced by a male and a female dancer, as originally cast.

 

Xu Yiming’s Aftermath completes the program, his involvement in Converge being part of EDC’s Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project. Aftermath brings a complete change of mood and style, although it has a surreal quality in common with Causer’s earlier piece.

 

It shows four people struggling with what life throws at them — a perplexing mix of demands and responses, introduced by the dancers laughing wildly, yelling orders and responding with actions. In keeping with these random challenges and the sometimes clumsy way we meet them, the movement is often hunched and awkward or grotesque, interspersed with moments of fluidity.

 

In contrast, the music (Georgi Gurdjieff/Thomas de Hartmann) is serene and meditative, with its plangent chords and echoes of religious ritual. The feeling is of an underlying harmony behind all the struggle, which is worth it in the end.

 

As always, the Expressions’ dancers give a powerful performance. The dancers are a strong ensemble, with Elise May’s dramatic force, Alana Sargent’s razor-sharp energy, and Jake McLarnon’s expansive strength particularly standing out.

 

With the musicians upstage centre, and the rest of the stage bare, the lighting by Ben Hughes is crucial in creating the different moods and environments for the four pieces.  The musicians are softly lit, but still clearly visible, enabling the audience to experience both the way they convert movement into sound, and the way the dancers respond to the sound with movement. Feeling this interaction adds another dimension to the performance.

 

 

Converge is a program of great variety, with many intriguing and exhilarating moments.

 

 

 

 

Converge Masterclass with Jake McLarnon –

 

Saturday 17 March, 2pm-3:30pm at Expressions Dance Company Studio, Fortitude Valley

 

An insightful 90-minute workshop with Expressions Dance Company (EDC) ensemble member and choreographer, Jake McLarnon. The workshop will explore the creative process behind Jake’s new contemporary dance work for Converge, EDC’s thrilling first season for 2018.

Foundational contemporary dance training required.

Tickets are $30
A $10 discount is available to the masterclass for patrons who have purchased tickets to the performance.

BUY MASTERCLASS TICKETS

 

26
Feb
18

[Mis]conceive

 

[Mis]conceive

Thomas E S Kelly

Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance Brisbane

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 18 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

… I speak through the lens of a dancer and creator. But I also speak through the lens of my ancestors, the Bundjalung and Wiradjuri people … I share my culture, which was also theirs through the songs, stories, and dances I create, all inspired by the land of which I have ancestral custodianship.

 

Rather than sitting by and letting the ancestral stories of past, present and future dissolve, I share them with everyone who is listening and willing to learn.

 

Thomas E S Kelly

My art. My culture. Our country.

 

[Mis]conceive aims to expose contemporary misunderstandings of Indigeneity and to create understandings instead. The multitalented Thomas E S Kelly is the choreographer, one of the four performers, and composer of the music. Co-performers are Caleena Sansbury, Taree Sansbury and Natalie Pelarek. Alethea Beetson is the dramaturg.

 

[Mis]conceive was the final main stage work to be performed as part of the Supercell Contemporary Dance Festival in Brisbane this year. Originally created for the Next Wave Festival in 2016, it runs for 50 minutes.

 

Kamilaroi Elder Bob Weatherall introduced the performance, acknowledging the traditional owners of the Brisbane lands, the Jagera and Turrbal peoples and their ancestors. He asked us to think about the ancestors and the land, and to walk lightly on it, to be a ‘friend of the earth.’

 

This reflective appeal led smoothly into the opening scene, where Kelly sits in a pool of dappled light, as a song in Aboriginal language plays. At first wearing only black trunks, he then gets up and puts on the modern uniform of jeans and a Tshirt, which the three women also wear. The dancers don grey hoodies at times and use these in different ways as versatile props throughout the performance.

 

The choreography combines motifs from traditional Aboriginal dance with contemporary dance and hiphop movement, creating a distinctive and visceral style. The dancers point, prowl, and use body percussion, including stamping, clapping and hitting parts of the body.

 

Repeated gestures include making ‘talking’ motions with one hand to the other, clapping a hand to the side of the face and sliding it down, pointing upwards with one arm and grabbing it with the other to pull it down. Sudden sharp movements are accompanied by audible exhalations of breath.

 

The work develops through distinct sections. With the hoodies used to signify school uniform, the dancers put up their hands hyper-enthusiastically, as if to answer questions in the classroom, raising a laugh of recognition from the audience. However, they then show, each in their own way, how it feels for this enthusiasm to be ignored.

 

In the dim light of a later scene, the dancers repetitively and submissively fold the hoodies on the floor, to music that sounds like the rhythms of machinery. The image is of hard labour in some institution or factory. They put on the hoodies, with hoods shadowing their faces, for a scene in which one of the women resists being part of the group (perhaps a group of people rejecting traditional ways in favour of European ones).

 

Around halfway through the work, the impetus and direction shift, with the focus now including the spoken word (mainly recorded). Some of the impetus of the previous dance scenes is diffused, but then regathered after this change of gear.

 

 

Kelly asks whether you can tell nationality from someone’s voice. He recounts his experience of being mistaken for other nationalities, despite his insistence that he is Aboriginal — other people refuse to believe him, almost as if Aboriginal people do not exist. He asks ‘What am I?’

 

Kelly’s solo at this point emphasises what a powerful and charismatic performer he is – tall, his movement expansive and full of energy. Complementing him, the three women are concentrated bundles of energy, expressive and committed.

 

In a bitingly amusing and thought-provoking scene, the performers act out people’s responses to a survey about the imaginary beings they believe in and the (mis)conceptions they have about Aboriginal people. Following on from the previous theme of disbelief about Aboriginal people, the implication is that they too are imaginary. In parodying the racist stereotyping of the (mis)conceptions, the performers show how ridiculous and mistaken these are.

 

At this point, suddenly the lights blaze onto the audience, and the dancers sit in silence, critically surveying us. The duration of our turn under the spotlight seems long, but is probably only a minute or two. It was uncomfortable to be the watched, rather than the watchers. A lone audience member found this very funny (he said so), and roared with laughter.

 

The mood of the work then gentled, the dancers going back to the more traditional movement, performed with a solemn joy and great energy. A final spoken monologue was one of hope, of still walking in the footsteps of the ancestors, of acknowledging all history, but looking forward for the whole Australian community, with no more division between black and white.

 

The abiding impressions of the performance are of a powerful energy, of a strong vision, of humour, heartfelt hope and generosity. The communication with the audience feels very direct.