Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

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

 

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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

 

13
Mar
18

Neurosis

 

Neurosis

Metro Arts Lumen Room

March 8 – 24 2018

 

Reviewed by Claire Harding

 

Neurosis is a collaborative work of ten short plays, written by three Brisbane playwrights, Greg Andreas, Kate Fester and American writer, Daniel Guyton, and directed by Greg Andreas, Antonio Peluso and Jane Oliffe.

 

 

 

Neurosis is defined as a relatively mild mental illness and this collection of works deals with how our internal world is constructed by our external and environmental pressures, such as our upbringing and relationships. How our psychological workings are influenced by our conditionings of our immediate and global society, our relationships, cultural and religious beliefs to name a few. It questions how these external factors contribute to our internal navigation, forming our personalities and beliefs, our fears and fantasies on such topics as sexuality, love and death to name but a few, and how these beliefs shape our reality.

 

The writing and acting overall is of a high standard; a standout for me is Julia Johnson in The Captive by Greg Andreas, who creates an erotic fantasy version of a woman’s life while her husband is absent, which I felt a lot of married ‘captive’ people could relate to…a very titillating piece. Melanie Bolovan is also captivating in the solo piece Outskirts by Kate Fester, dealing with her sexuality and how one comes to terms with marrying the inner knowing to the outer wold, in coming out to parents and society at large. These short pieces are tied together with romantic musical interludes by French composer and musician Marc Auer, who has a smooth voice and great control of his guitar, giving the piece a romantic, dreamy overtone.

 

The setting is simplistic, within the Lumen Room in the old Metro Arts, a crumbled jigsaw of a building, with squeaky floor boards adding to the feeling that this collection of dramatic pieces was a construction in the works, and further work is needed on some pieces that, while interesting, are not necessarily entertaining, especially the timing and character changes in the final offering, which the young actors seemed to struggle to make sense of, drawing out the work. That aside though, this is a thought-provoking piece and overall, an entertaining evening.

27
Feb
18

Disney’s Aladdin

Disney’s Aladdin

Disney Theatrical Productions

QPAC Lyric Theatre

February 24 – June 3 2018

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Princess Jasmine & Aladdin. Image by Deen Van Meer.

Aladdin is the multi-Tony Award winning, multi-faceted jewel in Disney’s crown, a decadent feast for the senses – flawless – rich in colour, romance, action, ambition, greed, honour, mischief, magic, glitz and glamour, and losing nothing of its original heartwarming essence. Booked yet?

Based on the 1992 animated film, and even more spectacular on stage, Aladdin’s intricate popup storybook sets are immediately transportive. The skyline alone is an Instagram Influencer’s dream! (Are the presets available for purchase?). Masterfully designed by Bob Crowley and superbly lit by Natasha Katz, with more than 300 lavish costumes on display, glistening with thousands of Swarovski crystals (Gregg Barnes), and gifted with swirling, seamless choreography making a showstopper of every musical number (Casey Nicholaw), AND with its extraordinary talent and automation, this sensational production is the must-see musical theatre event of the year.

Book here.

Princess Jasmine & Aladdin. Image by Deen Van Meer.

We were just discussing the need (or not) for overtures the other week, and this production, directed by Casey Nicholaw with musical direction by Geoffrey Castles, opens both acts with one, celebrating the many moods of the Middle Eastern influenced music composed by Alan Menken and from the first strains, freeing us from the throes of daily life and city traffic for a couple of magical hours. Additional songs have been added back into the stage production after being cut from the film, with lyrics by Disney dream team Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (with book & lyrics by Chad Beguelin). It’s got to be one of the catchiest, most uplifting scores of contemporary musical theatre. One of the reintroduced songs, the poignant Proud of Your Boy, showcases the acting chops and golden voice of Ainsley Melham, who brings the title role to life. This guy is set for superstardom. 

Aladdin (Ainsley Melham). Image by Deen Van Meer.

With effervescent energy, a mischievous grin and Disney leading man chiselled good looks, Melham is one of several WAAPA grads in the company, and a perfect match for this Princess Jasmine, Hiba Elchikhe. Hailing from the UK and Mountview trained, Elchikhe is divine and definitely the strong-vulnerable female role model you’d hoped your own little Princess Jasmine would get to see at stage door after the show for a #twinning pic. 

It was a JOY to see so many excited kids at opening night, lighting up the foyer with their bright eyes and infectious smiles. I only wish our major productions could be made more affordable, allowing even more families to enjoy a night out at the theatre together. Honestly, especially in this case, it can be the life-affirming, life-changing stuff of a happier childhood and a more harmonious household!

WELL, THERE IS NOTHING UPLIFTING OR LIFE-AFFIRMING ABOUT YOUR FOOTY TEAM LOSING, IS THERE? TRY A NIGHT OUT AT THE THEATRE. 

Adam Murphy’s Jafar is suitably imposing and delightfully wicked whilst remaining so suave when having to play the perfect gentleman and advisor to the Sultan (George Henare, charming and pleasingly, far more sensitive and intelligent than the bumbling / loveable old fool in the film). Jafar’s sidekick on stage, the parrot of the film, is henchman Iago, played with perfect comic timing and terrific physicality by Aljin Abella. Together these two give Aladdin’s three friends a run for their money in terms of laugh time.

Kassim (Adam-Jon Firorentino – please stay in the country now), Omar (Robert Tripolino) and Babkak (Troy Sussman) replace Abu, Aladdin’s beloved on-screen mate, a monkey, and they share some wonderfully funny moments, as well as getting the chance to shine as individual performers.

Genie (Gareth Jacobs). Image by Jeff Busby.

But it’s the Genie, Melbourne’s Gareth Jacobs who steals the show by a nose, having stepped into the big curly-toed satin shoes of Michael James Scott late last year. Jacobs is relaxed and makes the perfect host; he has us in the palm of his hand from the moment he first appears to welcome us, and later, magically, of course, in the Cave of Wonders. This dazzling set design is up there with the multiple cascading chandeliers of My Fair Lady (in fact, not since My Fair Lady has a musical production looked so good in the Lyric), and the Genie’s famous number here, Friend Like Me, literally stops the show, prompting an enthusiastic standing ovation and real hopes for a reprise. There isn’t one, because the show must go on! But this is so much better than the Super Bowl halftime show, and much more thrilling than the film, with literally something for everyone (the tap sequence is fantastic!). Genie even gives a nod to some other Disney smash hits, sans the R-Rated treatment we’ve enjoyed since 2014 at Oscar’s Boy&Girl

Aladdin. Cave of Wonders. Image by Deen Van Meer.

In this superbly talented ensemble we don’t expect to see any stand outs, and yet Brisbane’s Kimberley Hodgson is just glorious in every moment. I’d love to return to see her play Princess Jasmine. (Jasmine’s second understudy is Heather Manly, whom we recognise from Showwork’s Heathers. And though there are times when it is disappointing to miss out on a star performer, with understudies of this calibre there’s no need to give a second thought as to whether or not you’ll enjoy the show if someone is off for the night! This is a truly sensational cast, the strongest sounding ensemble we’ve heard in this space in a long time, absolutely world class).

Aladdin. Magic Lamp. Image by Deen Van Meer.

Aladdin is a no-brainer, the ideal date night, or an extravagant and entertaining evening with friends or family. If your household makes it to just one mega musical each year, this year make it this one.

Aladdin is beyond splendid. It’s bold, it’s beautifully staged and performed, showcasing some of the country’s most exciting musical theatre talent, and it guarantees the shared experience of a lifetime. Most impressive of all (and let’s face it, it’s largely due to this stellar cast), Disney’s dazzling production puts the heart and soul back into blockbuster musical theatre storytelling… Well, it was time. 

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.

 

19
Feb
18

Everything Remains

 

Everything Remains

Juli Apponen & Jon R Skulberg

Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance Brisbane

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 16 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

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

 

 

Everything Remains is choreography for a tired body…

 

 

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

 

– Juli Apponen & Jon R Skulberg

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

19
Feb
18

The Blokes Project

 

The Blokes Project

Joshua Thomson and Matt Cornell

Flowstate

In association with Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance Brisbane

February 13 – 18 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

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

Joshua Thomson

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 




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