Posts Tagged ‘aerial


Controlled Falling Project


Controlled Falling Project


Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

June 4 – 7 2014


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway


Amazing feats in the Acrophysics Laboratory




Enter the laboratory of acrobatic impossibilities where impulsive energy and intricate action combine to create a thrilling experiment in control, as these dangerously talented and fearlessly curious acrobats challenge the extremes of their physical ability.


In the Controlled Falling Project, the scene is an old-time physics laboratory run by a mad scientist and three assistants. A blackboard gives the titles of five experiments, and around the stage are chairs, other bits of wood and poles, a big work lamp, and a jointed 2D wooden female figure. The time seems to be about the 1950s (or maybe a little earlier). The all-male group wear trousers, white shirts, ties, braces, and small-brimmed hats.


The show starts with the three assistants reporting for work. They kid around like naughty schoolboys, and the older scientist has some trouble managing them. The format is that the scientist shows the team the task, they set it up, and then perform the experiments, interspersed with bits of clowning. Some of the clowning is slightly sinister, with the men manipulating, caressing and dancing with the wooden female figure, and playing with small doll-like effigies. A variety of mostly cheery music (from jazzy to klezmer) accompanies the acts, as well as the mad scientist live on drums.


My favourite experiment was the Fibonacci, based on spiral shapes (and referring to the mathematical Fibonacci Sequence). In a low-key start, the three performers spiral around each other, swapping hats. The climax is an amazing act with the Roue Cyr (Cyr Wheel), like a giant hoop. The wheel circles the stage, with the performer spinning around it and inside it in various unbelievable ways, using its momentum. Oh, I wish I could do that!


The teeterboard act that concluded the show was breathtaking. The performers jump up and down on the ends of the seesaw-like apparatus, catapulting each other into the air, and executing more and more daring aerial manoeuvres.


In all the acts, the performers achieved incredible feats, from tumbling and balancing in human pyramids, and demonstrating ‘controlled falling’ in the dismounts, to synchronised hand balancing on small blocks mounted on poles. The second act involved setting chairs up on top of each other in a miraculously balanced ‘staircase’, with the three performers doing handstands, each one step higher than the other.


All the acts had the audience whooping and cheering, and the hour-long show passed in a flash. During the show, ThisSideUp award themselves the Nobel Prize for Acrophysics, and I think they deserve it.




Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil


Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil 

The Estate of Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soleil

Brisbane Entertainment Centre

2 – 6 October 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


After the show I spoke with one of the Artistic Directors, Neela Vadivel, who was more than happy to address my tricky questions about The Estate’s take on Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil. Neela, bright as a button at 11pm when I was teetering and Poppy had already crashed, told me that there are only two Michael Jackson shows in the world that have been approved by The Estate, “and we have them both.” Cirque is super proud to bring the first of their two MJ shows to the world (the second show, Michael Jackson One by Cirque du Soleil, is up and running in Las Vegas. It’s a little more “Cirque”. Expect to see it here…eventually), and there’s a bit of a reverent ambience backstage; there is – quite rightly – an enormous amount of respect amongst these ranks for MJ.




Five “super fans”, The Fanatics, open the show – they’re the MJ lookalikes who appear in lieu of the clowns we love to see at a Cirque show – and they create a giant mural of Michael Jackson before we are suddenly taken into the world of Neverland and MJ’s Neverland Zoo. I’ve had some fascinating conversations with people about this show, and on more than one occasion I’ve been very glad my memory hasn’t failed me. Just in case the naysayers were right and I was wrong, I did some reading. You can check the facts for yourself here, but I think it’s important to note that MJ didn’t spend all his money on theme park rides, exotic jungle creatures and keepers. In fact, he donated to many charities, and founded or contributed to more good causes than most. Despite this show coming across as a bit of a myth-making effort, there is merit in its messages of hope, compassion and peace, which we get full-pelt in Act Two, just in case we missed them earlier. So more on that later.


The IMMORTAL band, led by Darrell Smith, whose handshake is as impressively strong as his musicianship, play over tracks that have been created especially for the show, allowing the musos (a number of whom, including Smith, and also the drummer, John “Sugarfoot” Moffett, are Michael Jackson’s original band members), allowing us to hear the familiar original eighties and nineties beats beneath a fuller, richer band sound with additional backing vocals sung live by Fred White and Stevvi Alexander. If you’re not a Michael Jackson fan, you’ll still love the live concert sound, louder than anything I’ve ever heard at Boondall, the bass reverberating beneath us, and most of the audience on their feet well before the end of the show.


My favourite segments, largely due to the clever combination of dance and aerial, showcasing MJ’s famed choreography and Cirque’s renowned acrobatics, comprised This Place Hotel, Smooth Criminal and Dangerous. The Pole Dancer, Guest artist Anna Melnikova, is without doubt the best pole dancer I’ve seen, her strength and grace defying gravity, her confidence and supreme skill daring the women around me in the Grandstand to keep watching just as the men do, in total awe; it’s the admiration she is due. Also impressive in their superior skill sets are Guest Artists Luba Kazantseva and Hampus Jansson (Aerial Silks) and Baaska Enkhbaatar (Contortionist, eliciting similar gasps and wide eyes from some of the women sitting near me).




Now, let me mention The Mime. He gets a special credit in the press list, unlike the lighting guys – it’s Mansour Abdessadok – but I didn’t find his role particularly effective, more a distraction, interrupting what would otherwise be beautifully smooth transitions from one segment to the next. (The spectacular lighting alone could move us from one number to the next!). Dressed in silver-white street attire, The Mime represents all things urban and MJ, channelling the spirit of Michael Jackson and performing a beatbox number that others may have better appreciation for. The concept is fine – I can see how it would have worked at the butchers paper/whiteboard/round table stage but it fails to capture my imagination as much as other aspects of the production.


Thriller is a winner with the audience, with its iconic choreography combined with the leaps and bounds of the acrobats, and Beat It adds some humour to the evening with a giant glove and a pair of penny loafers magically coming to life. But the real magic of this number is the cellist, Mariko, another artist who we were privileged to meet backstage, and though tiny she may be in real life, on stage she is a dazzling superwoman, rocking her electric cello in a one-legged sparkling hot pants suit! I am in awe of Mariko and also, with the other best casting job of the show, the awesome lead guitarist, Desiree Bassett.


After Interval the environmental messages come thick and fast, followed by the political; we get some real Cirque action with a perfectly synchronised team of aerial dancers, which leads into a reenactment of a sequence from MJ’s THIS IS IT tour; it’s a gridiron army of soldiers with LED breastplates in case we miss the message in the lyrics: THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT US. I tell Poppy to take her eyes away from the multiple screens, which are flickering with violent, desperate images, and instead, try to focus on the dancers themselves. What is that symbol? A dollar sign. And that one? Peace. Even the seven year old gets it. If you’re taking a little friend, this segment may be challenging. The following sequence may be challenging also, depending on your emotional state, and your love and admiration for MJ. It’s a bit of a tearjerker. As Michael Jackson’s voice and image gives us his original rendition of I’ll Be There, artists come from every direction to make their way through the audience holding glowing red hearts. By this time I’m looking forward to a little more iconic dance and I’m not disappointed.




The Mega Mix comprises Can You Feel It, Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, Billie Jean and Black or White, again utilising many wires and showcasing Cirque’s superb acrobatic and aerial skills. The LED costumes featured here, and elsewhere throughout the show are pretty special, and we took a closer look at them with Nate after the show. It’s technology created for Cirque by Cirque and it’s continuously evolving, with the latest models featuring inserts so, for example, wardrobe can take care of the sweaty, grubby gloves while techs can fix any LED issues at the same time. The batteries are also Cirque-made and we saw an entire packing case on charge, such are the numbers required to power the many costumes in IMMORTAL!




IMMORTAL ends with Man In the Mirror, in a celebration of the “legacy of an immortal” and despite there being more to this story, this production is a big, hearty chunk of it; it’s a broad collection of the happiest chapters of what I still believe, ultimately, to be a very sad story about an individual who felt the need to re-create himself and in the process, got a good way along the road to changing the world. As far as mythmakers go The Estate of Michael Jackson and Cirque du Soleil just rose to the top.


IMMORTAL must finish in Brisbane on Sunday.



Imogen Kelly: Herstory


Judith Wright Centre

6th – 7th April 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Herstory is a fun, skilled and sexy hour of cheeky stories, dance, aerials, magic, interactive projections, puppetry and short films. From Marie Antoinette and Lady Diana, to Marlene Dietrich and The Virgin Queen, Imogen Kelly revels in retelling their iconic stories.



Imogen Kelly – Bio


Imogen Kelly is an Australian made striptease identified performance artist and is notoriously known as Australia’s Queen of Burlesque. She is also the World’s Reigning Queen of Burlesque 2012 after taking out the title at The Burlesque hall of Fame weekend in Las Vegas.


Imogen Kelly, Australian burlesque trail blazer, is an internationally renowned comedian, performance artist, aerialist and character actor. She is unusual in the burlesque world for her ability to work many different styles from classic, comedy, theatrical, grotesque and circus. Her aesthetic is highly visual and her costumes are professionally crafted artworks.


Imogen has completed a BFA in performance (COFA NSW, AUSTRALIA), a circus degree (ZACA ,UK) and a degree in film making (Sydney University, NSW) .  She is also the first Australian Burlesque striptease artist to be accepted, and graduate from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA).


Imogen is a consummate performer of twenty years experience, a talented aerialist. She speaks three languages and has performed in 22 countries including The UK, Japan, India, Germany, France, Spain, Singapore, Noumea and the USA.


Among other claims to fame Imogen has been nominated for an Australian Music Industry Award ( (The ARIAs), was Miss Nude Entertainer of the Year in 2003 and  shares the world record for the world’s largest custard pie fight.



Imogen’s burlesque has graced the stages of The Sydney Opera House, La Clique , The Assembly Rooms Edinburgh, New York Burlesque Festival, Tease-o-rama and the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Imogen has been touring Australia with her award winning burlesque shows Tarnished (a shotgun marriage of circus and burlesque) and The Undressing Room (her one woman tour de force) for the past five years. Imogen was a regular guest on ABC TV’s ‘Sideshow where she became known as a national treasure for her satirical characters. She has also been featured in Madison fashion magazine and in the NSW Tourism campaign.


In 2007, Sydney Festival First Night the city was shut down so she could be wed in style outside Parliament house in a massive public wedding. In 2011 she stopped the city again with a live concert of her biggest acts at Festival first night in Hyde Park for hundreds of thousands of festivalgoers.


Imogen continues to provide archetypal portrayals of women and provocative whoopee.


Imogen’s new burlesque show, touring Australia in 2013, is called Herstory and it will be launched at The Famous Speigeltent , Melbourne, Australia in February 2013. She has been voted into the Top 50 burlesque performers in the world by 21st Century Burlesque Magazine for the last two years. Imogen was also honored to be accepted into the 2011 and 2012 Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend in Las Vegas.





Here’s the thing. You can’t beat good press. Imogen Kelly’s middle name might as well be Jesus because you’ll either believe the hype or not. I’ve believed it for years, and my faith was confirmed several years ago when I saw Kelly perform in Tarnished.


Kelly’s latest offering, Herstory, delivers a brand of Burlesque that celebrates the feminine, exploits the historical and combines classic, neo and aerial Burlesque into a sixty minute tongue-in-cheek show unlike any other.


“That was a GREAT show, wasn’t it? Wasn’t she GREAT?! She can do ANYTHING!” screeched a gaggle of girls making their exit from the cabaret tables at The Judy on Saturday night. It was a mixed crowd, reaffirming how quickly Burlesque is again gaining some street cred, attracting diverse audiences and delivering pure entertainment with broad appeal.


It’s fun, funny, cheeky and naughty enough to make you want to see a bit (or a lot) more.