Posts Tagged ‘contemporary dance


The Red Shoes – a chat with Natalie Weir


The Red Shoes is Natalie Weir’s new work for Expressions Dance Company.


Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s story and the 1948 film of the same name, it too is about a woman obsessed with dance to the point of self-destruction.


The Red Shoes_EDC_hero


Ruth Ridgway chatted with Natalie Weir, Artistic Director of Expressions Dance Company.


What was it about the Hans Christian Andersen story and the 1948 movie of The Red Shoes that appealed to you and inspired your work of the same name?


I saw the film on television some time ago and thought it was beautiful, and possibly something a dance company could do. I loved the era it was set in, and the story within a story idea.


It is also very appealing to find strong, complex and interesting female characters to base work on.


In order to grow our audience, we are at times using well-known titles to help make the company more accessible, and to perhaps attract people to see us that might not normally come. And I do love to tell a good story – with darkness and light!


It also seemed relevant to create a work about dance – as this is what we do every day – and the pursuit of perfection. This is not only in classical ballet, but also contemporary dance – the dancers do this constantly. But of course perfection means different things to different people.




How have you developed the work? Did you have a particular focus to start with? Did this change, and if so, how?


I started discussions with designer Bruce McKinven, to see if he found the idea inspiring. We talked a lot about the idea of obsession, or addiction, and how that can start very small and focused, but end up overtaking one’s whole life.


Bruce followed the story within a story idea by creating onstage a world within a world. We have not really deviated from this – just developed it.


The dancers of course play a major part in the creation of the work, the development of the movement and the characters. This work really belongs to them.


How do you feel about the cruelty and sadism of the Hans Christian Andersen story, and is that reflected in the work?


It’s like many of the fairy tales – those of the Grimm Brothers for example – the heart of the story is often dark and gruesome. In Red Shoes the girl’s feet are chopped off – yet they keep on dancing without her! Not so nice. However the idea of something taking over someone’s life – like a drug, where they are unable to stop it, seemed like strong fodder.


In my Red Shoes, the dancer Victoria becomes obsessed with the person in the mirror – but not in a good way. She is performing in a pantomime of The Red Shoes – which I have approached quite stylistically, with a dark angel cursing her to dance to death, and redemption/love/spirituality found through the weeping angel. This pantomime has her personal story around it (the story of the real Victoria) – her memories of auditioning for a dance company, her struggle with the form, her search for perfection, as well as the amazing highs that being on stage and the accolades bring.


The film of The Red Shoes shows another way in which a woman is destroyed, not so much by her obsession with dance, but by her temerity in wanting to have a career. Is this battle to develop a career reflected in your work? Or is the struggle different, and in what way?


Yes, it’s the struggle I guess to maintain a real life – seen through the relationship with Victoria’s lover/soulmate – balanced precariously with her onstage desires and dreams. We see her begin to slip into a madness of sorts, and the lover is left with a shell of a woman whose spirit has been captured by a world of fantasy.


The struggle could be brought into a modern context – the difficulty of finding a life/work balance, and I think this is relevant when working in an artform that is about passion, dedication and drive. Rarely do artists of any genre leave their work at work; it does pervade their private lives and often defines who they are. But when is this too much? And what happens when it ends?




What do the red shoes symbolise for you?


They are the intangible spirit that drives a dancer to be all they can be – the love of an artform.


What do the story and the film say to you about dance as a pursuit? How is this different in your work?


I think most people would recognise that dance is an artform of incredible highs and fulfilment, especially for those who make it to the top in their field – perfection can almost be found (but not quite). However, there is a downside, and perhaps for those not finding that dream, it can be heartbreaking. But the satisfaction for those who persevere and get there – that might be hard to match in other areas of their lives.


Can you tell us a little about the music for The Red Shoes, which will be performed live by the Southern Cross Soloists?


The music is by an eclectic mix of composers. Tania Frazer (Creative Director of Southern Cross Soloists) has been sending me music over a period of 12 months. We wanted it to sound as if it belonged in the 1940s, and had beauty and timelessness. We have music by Rachmaninov and Bach, as well as living composers such as Matthew Hindson, Pēteris Vasks and Giovanni Allevi.


The Southern Cross Soloists are all incredible musicians, all really at the top of their game, and it is a pleasure to have the luxury of the music being played live.


You are also incorporating film by Sue Healey. How is the film being used?


Film is not an area I have worked in before, but this work seemed to ask for it. The film is used three times only: the first two times to magnify the state of mind of Victoria, and the third in the onstage pantomime, to provide a really different look onstage and give the sense of the dancer travelling. Victoria dances through night and day, and different landscapes – and the film underpins the emotion and physicality of the dance to the death. Sue Healey is a sensitive and experienced filmmaker, and this work seemed like a great place to collaborate with such a film artist for the first time.


Finally, what do you hope the audience will feel in response to your work The Red Shoes?


It is always hard to predict how audiences will react to a new work, but I hope they feel engaged by the story, stunned by the gorgeous design, moved by the haunting beauty of the music, and inspired by the beautiful physicality and artistry of the dancers.


Every one of the dancers has a moment to shine, and I do believe they shine through.



The Red Shoes runs from July 18 – 26 2014 at QPAC. Book online.






The Lind
June 27 – 28 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


You might have noticed I’m not reviewing community theatre this year. Sorry about that. Sometimes we have a writer available to catch something or other (for example, tonight Maree was able to see The Breakfast Club, an amateur production at Brisbane Arts Theatre), but there is actually too much on to keep up with it all! While we’re being casual and chatty here, you might also have noticed that I’m several reviews behind the eight ball. Sorry, especially to those involved in the productions in draft form on my desktop. I’ve been teaching full time again, as well as rehearsing Diabolique, our original production, which was selected for inclusion at the Noosa Long Weekend Festival, and I’ve got a looong To Do List for the holidays! I promise I’ll catch up!


Vincent, a contemporary dance work by local choreographer, Melissa Lanham, not only interested me on a number of different levels but it exemplified the creative process that we see all too often go unsupported. Fortunately for Melissa and co, the project received funding from Ausdance Queensland as well as the support of private investors, which means the work was able to have a showing at the end of its first creative development phase.


Well, how did you think new great work is created!?


34. 1889 Self-Portrait oil on canvas 65 x 54 cm Saint-Rémy September 1889 © Musée d'Orsay, dist.RMN - Patrice Schmidt


We saw the premiere of Vincent this weekend and there’s no doubt that the work, as I’ve experienced it, deserves another lump sum to take it to the next level. I understand the plan is to take it to Perth next and then tour it from there. I’ll look forward to seeing that next stage of development because while I was unmoved, a friend who has only recently rebranded herself as a painter (the painter had been lying dormant for decades, as so often happens, beneath another professional persona) emerged from the dark theatre with tears streaming down her face, at a loss for words. She’s seen something in it that I’ve missed, obviously, but what I see is the potential of this production to have a similar effect on a broader audience…if only they have the opportunity to witness the work.


Vincent’s production elements are well balanced (music by Ezio Bosso, Max Richter & Kleefstra-Bakker-Kleefstra), and the performances by three professional dancers (Andrew Haycroft, Michael Smith & Chloe Lanham) are slick, despite some suitably angular and seemingly untidy choreography, including lifts, climbs, and tightly, fiercely manipulated turns. I’m not sure anyone else would refer to the choreography as being “untidy”‘and I mean it in reference to the style only, the execution of it is excellent. In this context, that’s just what it is to me and it’s fine. There are moments when the dancers are practically falling about themselves and all over each other. There are other very neat and precise moments, and there are some longer moments when the dancers are positioned behind set pieces so that the movement itself is partially obscured (I’d like to see those moments/movement sequences brought out front!). There’s even a well-timed body slam thrown in for good measure. (I guess if it were not well timed we’d be calling it an unmitigated disaster!).

The space at The Lind is small, stripped bare and like this it presents a certain level of intimacy, which is helped by a movable set – just two panels used effectively to separate time and events – and an intense lighting design that serves in turns to alienate us and bring us close to the work, and seemingly, within the reach of van Gogh’s crazed mind. But I feel so separated from the action throughout and I can’t tell whether or not that’s the intent. How do we ever relate to madness? One’s madness is one’s own, surely. But should I be sympathetic?


It’s a terrible, tragic demise of an artist but I feel nothing.


Of course Sam will tell you it’s because my heart is frozen that I feel nothing (That’s right. I look for a white streak through my hair every morning). He’s not a contemporary dance fan and he genuinely enjoyed this production. I’m genuinely surprised.


The piece begins with an uneasy soundscape to indicate a noisy crowd, to which van Gogh (Andrew Haycroft) eventually reacts in a violent, vocal manner, tearing at his hair and his paint smeared shirt. He’s unable to cope and it sets the scene for his descent into madness.


The deterioration of van Gogh’s mental state is fast – it’s a short show – and we are offered insight along the way through van Gogh’s brother’s eyes. Theo writes to him, pleadingly, but to no avail; the artist continues to “waste” paint and create works that remain unappreciated and, more importantly, unsold in his lifetime, much to his own and his brother’s chagrin.


The story, as it is in this state, is actually ultimately told from Theo’s POV and I’d love to see the show develop around his narration. Haycroft is well cast as Vincent, vulnerable in the titular role and demonstrating convincing quirks and characteristics throughout, but he doesn’t need to speak. The initial guttural sounds are enough. Conveniently, Haycroft even LOOKS like van Gogh (ears intact, you’ll be relieved to know). He’s a strong dancer and has a good sense of self, space and just the right measure of drama.


starrynight_vangoghMichael Smith is vocally the strongest performer of the three – his letters to van Gogh are perfectly pitched and phrased – and I feel like the story needs no other voice but his. A final dance solo above and around and beneath a chair, which he brings forth through the audience, proves his core strength and superb control, as Theo loses control after his brother’s death, “drowning” in his own madness, but it goes on and on, and we’re at risk of missing the point because it’s laboured, after being so obvious in the first place.


Chloe Lanham, in the abstract roles of the various women, the muse and all of van Gogh’s demons rolled into one, makes her presence felt from the moment her brightly body painted figure is revealed. She’s a dynamic performer and we enjoy the ferocity of the penultimate number, which also drags on but hones in on the voices inside the tortured artist’s head. There are not many lighter moments in the production and I wondered if there might be a positive relationship, other than with the brother, from which to draw. I’d love to see the joy and exuberance spent on the creation of Starry Night applied to a relationship with one of the few women who were not immediately discarded by van Gogh. Instead, we see a strange romp in which the artist’s self portrait is replaced by the artist himself in a fast-paced six-legged waltz around the stage. This, for want of another, is a lighter moment but even more so, it’s disturbing.


Still-Life--Vase-with-Fifteen-SunflowersA highlight at this stage is a dramatically hanging light, weighted perfectly, obviously, allowing it to swing pendulum like from above, the likes of which has never before been seen in this space, and the lighting generally, by Melbourne based (Sunshine Coast bred) designer, Travis MacFarlane. As if it’s not tough enough to light a contemporary dance piece, MacFarlane has created a plot that perfectly frames the action and cleverly leaves enough darkness around the edges to remind us that it’s into the shadows we must go if we truly wish to find (and face) ourselves.


There is excellent economy of movement in Lanham’s physical work, which now needs to be applied just as effectively to her storytelling. And this is what government funding and the next stages of creative development are for. Vincent is ambitious and far-reaching. The original investors have noted its potential already. Perhaps a pozible campaign will follow. Perhaps a venue or two will be bright enough to pick it up for a run. Perhaps we’ll see the next version sooner than we think. It’s a fluid, professionally finished production, even in this, its first incarnation. Look out for the second coming.


N.B. The English subtitles on the first video I found are an absolute disaster so check this one out!






Phluxus 2 Dance Collective

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

June 14 – 21 2014


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway 


After the apocalypse…


The de-generator audience is ushered into the cavernous black gloom of the dimly lit theatre. There are no seats (and no stage) – we are in amongst the set and free to move around it. Twisted strips of shredded and silvered plastic hang from the roof in tent-like shapes, fastened to the floor with crisscrossed silver tape – the effect is of twisted steel and broken glass. Dull muddy-silver meandering strips like dirty water wind across the floor.


After we are plunged into complete darkness, and experience waves of thunderous sound, a small light shows and a man (Alexander Baden Bryce) appears. He lunges, twists, and drags himself along the floor, and stretches up imploringly, struggling to breathe.


Later, a woman (Amelia Stokes) enters, hobbling and bent over with pain, coughing, twitching and scratching. She twists and writhes, and throws herself into the air. She visits various piles of hoarded and salvaged objects: dingy-looking bottles of water, empty bottles, gas masks, bits of jewellery, torches, bits of fabric. The water is particularly precious, and she obsessively rearranges the bottles.


Both the man and the woman seem to have survived some horrific disaster, and are desperately struggling to survive. Their costumes are various wrappings and rags in protective layers – grey for the man and terracotta for the woman. Their eyes are surrounded in dark shadows, giving them a haunted look.




When the woman and the man see each other, they circle like prey and predator. They wrestle and grapple, like feral creatures. The man dominates in this contest, and treats the girl brutally, even when you think they are on the point of being kind to each other.


When the man collapses though, the woman revives him, after some hesitation. She sponges his body with a rag and pathetically tiny amounts of water – his feet first then hands and body and lastly the face. (If you had only one bit of cloth, wouldn’t you start with the face first, not the feet, which are probably dirtiest? However, it had to be the face that was last, because that’s when the man revived.)


Eventually, the pair reach a more harmonious state, and in two more lyrical and hopeful segments they dance as if in slow motion. The sound, which for the most part has been thudding, crashing and exploding like the end of the world, and vibrating from the floor up through our feet, changes to more peaceful music (all composed by Andrew Mills). At this point, are the two people exhausted, dying creatures, or are they heading into a new beginning?




The performance ends as they stand still, and the soundscape changes to news reports about apocalyptic events – nuclear war, earthquake, climate change, fire, tsunami etc. For me this felt jarring and too obvious. I think we all got the message without this very literal information about different apocalyptic events. However, it did unmistakably leave us with the question ‘Will we ourselves survive?’


The audience is very involved in this show. We cluster around the dancers, and the dancers in turn herd us to spaces they don’t want to occupy, as we keep out of their way. We are part of the performance – choreographed as the negative of what the dancers are doing. Are we playing the roles of bewildered sheep-like victims of the apocalypse? Or maybe we are ghosts – I thought I saw one, but it was probably an audience member in the gloom.


Choreographer Nerida Matthaei (Phluxus Artistic Director), with dancers Stokes and Bryce, has achieved an impressive feat in devising and carrying off a piece of such weight and destructive energy with only two performers (plus audience). The dancers, performing demanding and intense movement under very close scrutiny, kept us engaged and involved, and dealt impressively with the mass of the audience moving around them.


There were some drawbacks. Sometimes it was hard to see what was going on because people were crowding in front of each other. You need to stay alert and follow the action. The performance lasts an hour, which was about my limit for standing after a day at work. The slower, more lyrical sections at the end felt a little long.


Post-apocalyptic stories are, paradoxically, an enduring genre that goes back at least to the biblical Noah and the flood, and probably earlier. de-generator joins current book/film examples of the genre, such as The Hunger Games, The Road, and the coming film Z for Zachariah.


Post-apocalyptic style has also been with us a while, and is popular at the moment. As an example of the style, the de-generator design (set and costumes by Lisa Fa’alafi, and lighting by Keith Clark) also reminds us of the dark and dire inspiration behind it.





Phluxus2 Dance Collective has been supported by the Judith Wright Centre’s Fresh Ground program, made possible by Arts Queensland.

de-generator has been support by Creative Sparks,a joint initiative of Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.





SOLO Festival of Dance


Solo Festival of Dance

QPAC & Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Cremorne Theatre


May 15–17 (Program 1) & May 22–24 (Program 2)


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway




The best in the country, at their best.

Australia’s only solo dance festival returns in 2014 with a dazzling line-up of the country’s most virtuosic dance artists, including EDC’s own.

SOLO is dance nourishment for the soul; a tantalizing menu curated by Natalie Weir to showcase individual dancers and choreographers in an evening of beautiful artistry and bravura.

Featuring artists from Expressions Dance Company, the Australian Ballet, Australian Dance Theatre, Chunky Move, Dancenorth, Shaun Parker & Company, and Australia’s brightest independents, with new choreography by Narelle Benjamin, Antony Hamilton, Daniel Jaber, Natalie Weir, and more.


The Solo Festival of Dance is presented jointly by Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, with the program curated by Natalie Weir, EDC’s Artistic Director. It is an inspired idea, presenting a great variety of works by different choreographers and performers, some of whom we may not often see in Brisbane. There are two programs, with different guest artists in each.


In the first program, Kimball Wong from Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) stunned us with his energy and ferocious abandon in Morphology (choreographed by Garry Stewart, Artistic Director of ADT, and Wong). Like a creature trying to break out of a chrysalis, he twitches and flips into the air from a lying position – how he does this is a mystery. Gravity doesn’t seem to apply, but certainly takes over as he crashes to the ground. The struggle continues as he gets to his feet, and is continually thrown down again, writhing and twisting. There was no music – only an intermittent, echoing beat.


A very different, but also compelling performance, was by independent choreographer/performer Brian Lucas. His piece CON was very topical, coming so closely after the Federal Budget. In his spoken and danced oration, Lucas repeats the same three lies: “I am here because of you! I am here for you! You can trust me!” Oratorical gestures accompany each element of the speech, and are repeated with varying breadth, force and style. The final “You can trust me!” as Lucas walked downstage towards us was a chilling moment.


Alice Hinde of Dancenorth threw herself into an even bleaker piece: Together into the Abyss (by Raewyn Hill, Artistic Director of Dancenorth). This expresses in movement the last stage in Friedrich Glasl’s nine-stage model of conflict escalation, where the focus is on destruction of the other at the expense of one’s own survival. Continually gasping as though she were choking, and whirling and dashing herself to the floor, Hinde has some respite in a slower section, before the final doom.


Michelle Ryan, Artistic Director of Restless Dance Theatre, choreographed her own solo Falling. Ryan cannot walk unaided, and her journey onto the stage, supported by a helper, is a powerful introduction to the performance. She remains seated for her solo, in which she circles and twines her arms, delimiting the space she can reach. Accompanying her, cellist Emma Hales played The Flying Dream by Iain Grandage. The dancer and the musician mirror each other: both seated, and both channelling their energy through their arms and upper body to create a performance of dream-like yearning.


The other seven solos on the program were by EDC dancers and trainee. In the classically based solo Anatomically Incorrect (by Daniel Jaber, Resident Choreographer, Leigh Warren Dance), Daryl Brandwood displays his technique and parodies it at the same time. The irony is that, although the piece reveals the hard work, grim endurance, and “anatomical incorrectness” behind the elegant surface of classical ballet, it is still wonderful to watch because of Brandwood’s mastery of that technique.

Jack Ziesing gave a thoughtful and emotive performance of the poignant Seven Ages (by Natalie Weir and Ziesing). From a large suitcase, he takes pairs of shoes – starting with those from childhood, moving to youth, adulthood, and old age – mirroring the movement of the different ages. This work is a complete miniature piece of dance theatre, engendering a range of emotions.


Ziesing also performed the less accessible improvisational study Point of Return (by independent choreographer Antony Hamilton). A laser pointer trained on him is intended “to articulate the depth of space between the dancer and his starting point”.


Cloudia Elder’s solo Human Fly (by QUT lecturer and choreographer Csaba Buday, with Elder) brought a welcome exuberance to the program in a celebration of female sensuality, with movement very attuned to the lilting and seductive version of the song Human Fly (Nouvelle Vague). A trainee at EDC and still a student at QUT, Elder has a fresh energy and engaging presence.


EDC dancer Benjamin Chapman opened the show with The Man of Many Talents (choreographer Elise May, with Chapman). Looking debonair in a dinner suit, he plays with different aspects of masculinity, appearing to be controlled by external forces in a robotic style of movement. This entertaining caricature of masculinity also reveals bewilderment and confusion about its conflicting demands. Chapman also closed the show with the meditative solo The Weeping Angel (by Natalie Weir and Chapman), part of The Red Shoes (a work in development).




As well as choreographing for Chapman, Elise May performed Close to the Bone (by Narelle Benjamin). This intense piece is mainly on the floor, with May’s long limbs folding and extending. She holds a flower, a perhaps too-obvious link to the words “… I think of each life as a flower …” (part of a quotation from poet Mary Oliver in the program notes).


Unfortunately, from where I was sitting at the front of the theatre, it was hard to see much of this piece. A tip: for contemporary dance at the Cremorne, it’s best to sit further back and higher up.





Judith Wright Centre & Lisa Wilson Projects

Judith Wright Centre 

May 15 – 17 2014

Reviewed by Simone Mutimer


Bold in its vision and deeply evocative, Lisa Wilson’s Lake  literally floods the stage to grapple with our fascination and fear of water.

Serene. Calm. Haunting. Menacing.

Lake reflects on the journey of a relationship, cascading along from sparkling reflection to murky depths; from intense beauty to chilling isolation, to utter wilderness and our innermost sense of our selves.


NOMINATED 2013 Australian Dance Awards
Outstanding achievement in independent dance: Lisa Wilson 



Lisa Wilson’s Lake is set upon a flooded stage against the sounds and trees of the Australian bushland. We are introduced to the show by the innocent and freely expressed nature spirit.
This contemporary dance performance explores the dynamics of the masculine / feminine aspects of a relationship. We journey through the inner emotional turmoil and unspoken words as they try to find an expression and a voice.
We follow the breaking down and rebuilding of the relationship through playing, fighting and isolation.
The masculine sets about trying to control and structure his environment , while the feminine – sometimes closed and lost in her creative and dynamic emotions,  flows in and out of herself trying to find a place to express and connect.
Lake is a must-see visual and sensory exploration that will draw you in and keep you captivated. The elements of nature and human nature expressed through water and human relationships. This show will keep coming back. Make sure you don’t miss it next time.

Promo LAKE from Lisa Wilson on Vimeo.

Images by FenLan Chuang


SOLO Festival of Dance – a chat with dancer Cloudia Elder


EDC’s Solo Festival of Dance – a chat with dancer Cloudia Elder


Interviewed by Ruth Ridgway


The Solo Festival of Dance mounted by Expressions Dance Company (EDC), and curated by Artistic Director Natalie Weir, runs from May 15 – 24 2014. It features dancers and choreographers from contemporary companies around Australia, as well as independent artists.


Twenty-year-old Cloudia Elder, a dance student at QUT, is excited and honoured to be performing in Solo.


Cloudia Elder

Can you tell us a little about the piece you are performing in the Solo festival?

My solo was choreographed by Csaba Buday [Lecturer in Contemporary Dance at QUT]. I am lucky to have worked with Csaba in 2013 for his work Élet where I had a short solo that led into a dynamic trio with two boys. We performed this in the QUT graduation show.


Csaba decided to develop this work into a full solo for me. It’s been an interesting shift, because I was playing this promiscuous character with these two boys, and now I’m playing with the audience. It’s quite a sexy solo, but not too overwhelming!


This opportunity, it’s been a dream come true. I have to pinch myself to realise that it’s still happening. All these amazing guest artists and choreographers are taking part in Solo, and I’m just blown away to be part of the show!


You are studying at QUT and on secondment to EDC. How did this come about, and how does the secondment work?

I’m still studying, doing third year in a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance Performance). I’m really lucky that QUT has this connection with EDC [as a training partner]. Natalie [Weir] arranged with QUT to take me on as a trainee – the performances here count towards my marks at uni.


I do technique classes in the morning at QUT, and at 12 o’clock I come to EDC and I rehearse here. I’m not missing out on anything at uni.


I think I’m the first person seconded in this way, but Expressions’ dancer Michelle Barnett was a trainee after she graduated from QUT.


The secondment came about after I went to one of EDC’s Brisbane Contemporary Dance Intensive workshops for one week, and they had R&J [Natalie Weir’s reinterpretation of Romeo and Juliet] and Carmen Sweet coming up. Unfortunately a dancer had been injured and by the end of the week, Natalie asked me if I would be available to perform in 4 weeks. Of course I said “Yes!” I ended up getting Act 1 of R&J. After that season, Natalie offered me the traineeship.


I hope that I have given a good impression and that for others in coming years EDC might also offer the same.


Solo is obviously a highlight of your dance career. What other opportunities have been really important to you?

R&J at the beginning of the year. And then I’ll be in EDC’s production of The Red Shoes as well, in July. I’ve been here for the entire creative process, which has been an incredible experience.


Natalie has given me the opportunity to have a little choreographic “play” for The Red Shoes. She gave me a few tasks and I got to show her the sort of things that I like to do. She wanted me to be able to adapt to the way she likes to create and direct.


Cloudia Elder and Robert Flehr in Berlin (choreographer Graeme Murphy). Image by Fiona Cullen 2013.


How did you become a dancer, and who has influenced you as a dancer?

I’m originally from Sydney, and I started dance classes at the age of three with Janece Graham. Straight away she was very strict, but she was amazing, and she really built me up until the age of 13.


Then I went to Redlands Secondary School in Cremorne on a dance scholarship, and I studied there with Kim Traynor. She was a major influence for me. She is just this divine, loving person. She had trained at the Royal Ballet School and also danced with the Australian Ballet.


At Redlands I was also introduced to Olivia Ansell, who is Executive Producer with Shaun Parker & Company. She was my first contemporary teacher. I got to see a few of her shows, and she gave me solos and really took me under her wing. She suggested I go into contemporary, and then later I got into QUT.


At QUT last year we were able to work with Graeme Murphy and perform in his Berlin. He came to the show and said it was just like watching his own dancers when he was at Sydney Dance Company. Getting comments like that was fabulous! He gave QUT the rights to perform his works after seeing the performance. QUT is the only tertiary institution that has that.


Cloudia Elder and Robert Flehr in Berlin (choreographer Graeme Murphy). Image by Fiona Cullen 2013.


Are there any other people you want to mention who have influenced you?

I’d definitely say first my family. My family are powerhouses. There are no other dancers in the family – oh, but my dad was a ballroom dancer. I don’t know if it comes from him, though. And my mum teaches ryoho yoga. So maybe I got flexibility and power from her?


I love to do yoga. Especially ryoho, which is a Japanese style, and very dynamic. I do quite a few of mum’s yoga intensives when I’m in Sydney. You see the changes, even after three days – everything’s so solid, you start to see a beautiful waistline, you feel so much more energetic.


I think if you are a dancer you really need to consider taking up yoga.


What are your hopes for your future career?

Well, at the moment I am very focused on EDC of course, and hoping for a future with EDC with my fingers crossed.


I’m also really interested in the choreography and dance I’ve seen from Israel.


One of my biggest influences – it really told me “you need to go into contemporary” – was a work by Hofesh Schechter, an Israeli choreographer based in London. He did this phenomenal work called Political Mother,which was performed in Sydney a few years ago at the Opera House. There was live music (the audience had to wear ear plugs), and the dancers were just unbelievable. It was so relevant to what was happening in society, and I just thought I couldn’t really imagine doing the Nutcracker every year.


Contemporary dance really connects with current issues and emotions.


I did a workshop with another Israeli company last year – Vertigo Dance Company. And I fell in love with that movement as well.


I would definitely like to travel to Israel, do workshops, spend some time there. Working overseas is something a dancer should always be up for. It would be an incredible experience. But at the moment, Expressions is my priority.


 See the best in the country, at their best.

Solo Festival of Dance

May 15 – 24 2014


Cloudia Elder and Robert Flehr in Élet (choreographer Csaba Buday). Image by Fiona Cullen 2013.






Carmen Sweet


Carmen Sweet

Expressions Dance Company & QPAC

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

31 October – 2 November 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Natalie Weir's Carmen Sweet. Pictured EDC's Elise May, Benjamin Chapman. Image by Dylan Evans.


Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet finishes tomorrow, which is an absolute travesty, because apart from Katherine Lyall-Watson’s Motherland at Metro Arts and QTC’s Design For Living in the Playhouse next door, Carmen Sweet is Brisbane’s other must-see show at the moment, at a time when our theatre seasons are wrapping up and the festive season and its drinks are beginning to take over our evenings. “Come for drinks,” “Just drop in for drinks,” “It’s just drinks,” “We’ll bring the drinks.” Does that sound familiar? Well, at the Cremorne Theatre, for Carmen Sweet, you can take your drinks in with you. I know! The festive season comes early to QPAC! I love the Cremorne in its cabaret configuration, and to get up close to performers who are practically artworks themselves is a joy. So book a table! I’m sure the strength, tone, balance, flexibility and focus of this ensemble, which we see up close from said table, can be attributed not only to the rigorous demands of training and rehearsal, but also to the work being done with the team at West End’s Core Yoga. The secret of course, is to make it all look effortless during performance, and these dancers do just that.


The Cremorne space is much more intimate than The J, which is where Poppy and I enjoyed the first version of this show, during the Noosa Long Weekend earlier this year. The second half of a double-bill, and the only dance piece in the program, Carmen Sweet stood out and when I knew it was to return, I locked it in early! Last night, Natalie Weir and her exquisitely talented dancers wowed us again, with a passionate and playful performance of the full version; it features a guest ensemble of young local dancers this time and flows more smoothly from one number to the next, and right to the bittersweet end. Rodion Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite is “quirky and sublime”, the perfect choice for Weir’s reimagining of the famous femme fatale’s tragic tale. Why do we still admire her and want to be her? Because she is FABULOUS! The story has made her so, and the women who play her in Weir’s version are FABULOUS.


Natalie Weir's Carmen Sweet. Pictured EDC's Elise May, Michelle Barnett, Jack Ziesing, Riannon McLean. Image by Dylan Evans.


All three Carmens are exceptional, presenting contrasting and conflicting aspects and alter egos of the woman. They are Elise May, Michelle Barnett and Rhiannon McLean (sadly, this season is McLean’s last). They are equally matched in skill and strength, and in their fierce commitment to the character, but Elise May is something else, drawing all eyes, regardless of what else is happening on stage and even when she is completely still. She is simply incredible to watch and makes me think, every time I see her, of our Cate. That’s right. Elise May is the Cate Blanchett of Australia’s contemporary dance scene. I wonder how much longer we’ll have her?


The girls are joined on stage by beautiful, powerful performers, Daryl Brandwood (he is fate or Carmen’s conscience), Jack Ziesing (the hapless soldier) and Benjamin Chapman (the famous toreador). Brandwood’s entrance and subsequent solo performance particularly, is simply exquisite, and drew gasps from those sitting behind me on opening night, as did the opening motif featuring Elise May on the red-lips-lounge in a superb black gown, designed and created by Bill Haycock. Similarly, the lighting states by Ben Hughes are impressive, evocative, the icing on the cake.


Natalie Weir's Carmen Sweet. Pictured EDC's Benjamin Chapman, Riannon McLean, Jack Ziesing. Image by Dylan Evans.


And speaking of cake, I keep thinking about what Brisbane continues to offer us, not just at the moment, but year-round, in terms of its theatrical seasons and support of our artists, and dance being no exception; we can have our cake and eat it too. We are missing out on very little, really (I mean, who has the time to see much more?!), thanks to the incredibly talented individuals who choose to create and produce their work in Brisbane. Having said that, because I’VE NEVER BEEN TO MELBOURNE BEFORE Sam and I are off to Melbourne at the end of next week, just for a few days, and we’ll see King Kong and The Beast …I’m expecting to be bemused by one and entertained by the other! Follow us on Instagram and Twitter #xsgoestomelbourne


You don’t have to go to Melbourne to see Natalie Weir’s Carmen Sweet. It’s world class contemporary dance happening right here in Brisbane, but only until tomorrow night!



To find out about becoming a dancer at EDC or to apply for their week-long contemporary dance intensive in January 2014 see