Posts Tagged ‘collusion

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.

 

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31
Aug
16

Muscle Memory

 

Muscle Memory

Judith Wright Centre & Collusion

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

August 17–20 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

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Muscles flex and memories resurface in this all-Australian evening of chamber ballets …

Muscle Memory program notes

Muscle Memory is a varied and polished program of chamber music and chamber ballet. Contemporary music ensemble Collusion has partnered with choreographer Gareth Belling and dancers from the Queensland Ballet’s Pre-Professional Program to present three short works for small groups of dancers, and two duos.

Belling was originally commissioned by the Queensland Ballet to create these works for the company over a period from 2006 to 2011. The costumes were all designed by the Queensland Ballet’s Noelene Hill.

The first piece, Urban Myths (to Nigel Westlake’s piano trio of the same name) is for three couples. Inspired by photographs on the walls in his grandparents’ house, Belling wondered what lay behind the posed images of happy 1950s couples. In his ballet, one pair of the three has a troubled and violent relationship, gradually revealed in increasing intensity, with the other two couples being drawn into the conflict.

Lifts feature prominently in the choreography, displaying the strength and poise of the young dancers straight away. The movement patterns also have the dancers advancing and retreating in a wave-like effect.

The youth and freshness of the dancers contrasted with the dark themes and sober costumes of this piece. It was hard to believe in them being enmeshed in the unhappiness they were trying to portray. But they danced beautifully, and straight away demonstrated the success of the QB Pre-professional Program.

Urban Myths was followed by Transference, a cheeky flirtation between a female and a male dancer. The music too, is a duo, the Violin and Piano Sonata by Australian-Ukrainian composer Catherine Likhuta.

The dominant feature of the dance duo is the female dancer’s white tutu, with its medium-length petal-like skirt. At the start of the work she is on the floor folded into the skirt, and appears from it like a flower opening. Later, the tutu droops downwards, or is folded up around her torso, exposing the underside of the tutu, and the body. The body of the male dancer, while he was wearing less (a white Tshirt and grey briefs), did not appear as exposed.

After this interlude came Transition Sequence for a group of eight dancers, to Carl Vine’s String Quartet No. 3. At times the dancers formed a close group, with quick movements darting out from the group, like a small colony of organisms moving as one. At other times the group disassociated, and two couples were featured.

The costumes for both male and female dancers in this piece were short, stylish, grey tunics with a Grecian-style bodice. Those for the female dancers were particularly short, and kept riding up, destroying their elegant effect.

Following the interval came a second short duo, Mourning Song, to Paul Stanhope’s Songline (for violin and cello). In this piece a woman is mourning the death of a man, and also celebrating his life. The woman is dressed in a dark-purplish long dress, and appears gaunt and grief-stricken. The man is a ghostly figure, dressed in grey.

The music for this piece, with the violinist and the cellist seated downstage left, made a great impact, and dominated the dance. At one point, the cello and violin were as if stridently calling out in the same strong, beating rhythm. The power of the performance by Benjamin Greaves (violin) and Danielle Bentley (cello) eclipsed the youthful, earnest performance of the dancers.

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The final work on the program was Refraction to Philip Eames’s composition for piano quintet, Annealed Cyan Matt, in its premiere performance. Refraction has been rechoreographed to this commissioned score after first being created to Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No. 1.

This is a playful work, with one sprite-like female dancer leading the others into various energetic routines. The lighting design (by Ben Hughes) features a refracted band of rainbow-colours that the dancers move in and out of, creating interesting colour effects.

The dancers wear bustiere-like white bodices, and white briefs for the men, and intriguing skirts made of clustered thick white loops for the women. (Again, these skirts tended to ride up distractingly.) The general effect was reminiscent of Victorian or Edwardian circus performers, and the strength and flexibility of the male dancers, in particular, reinforced this impression.

Overall, this was an entertaining program, showing off the skill and attack of a strong group of emerging dancers. The classically based choreography (with the women on pointe in three of the five pieces) suited them.

The strength and assurance of the Collusion musicians’ performance and the music they played were spellbinding, showcasing the work of five different Australian composers.

During this season of Muscle Memory, Collusion also promoted their crowd funding campaign, which will help them to provide free community concerts for people with a disability and their families in Queensland. These concerts give people the opportunity to experience live music in safe and accessible spaces.

06
Sep
15

Desirelines

 

Brisbane_Festival_Generic_2015

 

Desirelines

Collusion

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

September 2 to 5 2015

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Desirelines is as much about the pathways in life as it is the movement in the performers’ bodies.

 

Gareth Belling, choreographer

 

 

One of the opening events of this year’s Brisbane Festival, Desirelines is described by Queensland chamber group Collusion as a ‘chamber ballet’ for three musicians and four dancers.

 

The term ‘desire lines’ in everyday life refers to those informal paths that people make by striking out from a set route, like a footpath, and wearing a dirt track across an area such as a lawn. Metaphorically, they can represent freedom from convention, or the ability to create an alternative way.

 

In this new work by Collusion, lines, tracks, restrictions, and pathways, both conventional and alternative, are represented in the design, in musical notation, and in the groupings of the dancers and musicians in different combinations. For instance, there is movement on restrictive trackways, freer movement away in other directions, and music written on lines – which may seem restrictive, but is also the foundation for creative expression.

 

Choreographer Gareth Belling says in the program notes that he is exploring concrete, well-established life pathways, and pathways that people develop for themselves, and he mixes and matches the four dancers in different combinations to acknowledge all relationships equally, regardless of gender or sexuality.

 

collusion_desirelines_header

 

The musicians of Collusion, and the visual design by Pete Foley are the stars of this show.

 

The animated music notation is a bewitching element of the design, with white staves and notes projected onto the black floor for the musicians to read. The staves are arranged in many different ways: in three blocks in front of the three musicians; in a circle; in a chevron; and in shifting diagonal patterns. I had never realised that music notation could look so beautiful.

 

The musicians – Benjamin Greaves (violinist and Co-Director of Collusion), Danielle Bentley (cellist) and Diana Tolmie (clarinettist) – all shine, playing specially commissioned compositions by Australian Susan Hawkins, as well as existing ones by Peter Sculthorpe and Jacques Ibert.

 

Highlights were the Sculthorpe violin solo Irkanda I and Ibert’s cello solo Ghirlazana (elegy), both Greaves and Bentley producing beautiful sound, with shimmering tremolo and bird-like harmonics in the Sculthorpe piece.

 

The cello solo married particularly well with the design, Bentley circling the stage on a small moving platform as the stave and notes also circle around her, like moving lines of stars on the floor.

 

Dancers Melissa Tattam and Nathan Scicluna (both formerly with the Queensland Ballet) are long-limbed and elegant with strongly classical placing, while Amelia Stokes and Michael Smith have a more earthy, contemporary style. The movement phrases often begin with very classical positions and steps, which then deform and break out into a more plastic and grounded flow of movement.

 

Frequently assembling and dismantling stainless steel tracks across and around the stage, the dancers appear subservient to the musicians, who stand or sit on small moving platforms on the tracks, with the dancers unobtrusively pushing them around.

 

collusion_desirelines

 

Although some manipulation of the sections of track was integrated into the dancers’ movement, giving the impression that they were grappling with or submitting to restrictions or repressions, its frequency made it an obtrusive element that took the focus away from the movement and the music.

 

Leigh Buchanan has designed stylish costumes for the musicians and for the dancers in varying combinations of black, grey and white, with touches of deep red glitter.

 

There is such a lot happening at once in this work, with the musicians, the animations and the dancers (both dancing, and track-building). I found that my attention focused on the musicians and the animations.

 

In a way this is a nice reversal – that the dancers accompany the musicians, rather than the musicians accompanying the dancers and being almost invisible. In a chamber ballet, though, I feel that the dance element needs to be more strongly integrated into the whole.

 




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