Posts Tagged ‘dancenorth





Dancenorth & Liminal Spaces

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

September 19 – 22 2018


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway



Upon birth, we arrive into a world in which those who precede us determine everything.


From this lottery of birth we inherit the architecture of both restriction and opportunity in countless manifestations. Structures, barriers and borders pre-exist, and past tense illuminates both our present and future thinking…




Dancenorth’s work Dust premiered at this year’s Brisbane Festival. It is inspired by weighty and solemn concepts, outlined by directors/choreographers Kyle Page (Dancenorth’s Artistic Director) and Amber Haines (Associate Artistic Director) in their program notes.


Page and Haines are married and have a baby son, whose birth last year led them to contemplate ‘the architecture of inheritance’, and to think about the present, past and future worlds, and how we shape these worlds and they shape us.


In the post-performance Q&A on opening night, Page referred to the set for Dust, designed by Liminal Studio, as ‘another performer’. It dominates this work. At first, a large, wedge-shaped wall looms over the performers. Angled across the stage, it separates one dancer (Ashley McLellan) from the six others (Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson and Jack Ziesing). The themes of barriers, restrictions, insiders/outsiders and inclusion/exclusion continue throughout the work.


The power of the soundscape matches that of the set. Created by composer/sound designer Alisdair Macindoe and Canadian composer/musician Jessica Moss, it surges, booms and pounds, ebbing to quieter moments with sounds like bells, harmonic chanting, droning, and distorted voices calling.


Threading their way among the recorded electronic sounds are echoes of Middle Eastern and Eastern European music. Moss plays the violin live during the show, electronically modifying the sound of her instrument.


Early on, the dancers dismantle the wall into its constituent box-like blocks. As the work progresses, they move the boxes into various configurations: a ramp, a pile of rocks, a low wall around the stage perimeter, and parallel rows of columns.


The action continues with duos and solos while this happens, but shifting the boxes takes up much of the dancers’ time and effort. (The dancer representative at the Q&A, Felix Sampson, confirmed the impression that the blocks are heavy.)



Once the arrangements of blocks are in place, striking images are created by the dancers moving and posing on and round them. A group moves and stands on a ramp, while a lone man creeps alongside. A woman stands and lifts her arm, like a priest or an ancient oracle. A group of dancers bow and abase themselves to a pile of blocks; one woman walks slowly among them and they follow her.


It is as if we are witnessing some ancient ritual in a sacred space. This effect is accentuated by the configuration of the Powerhouse Theatre, with the audience in tiers of seats rising above the stage, as in an Ancient Greek theatre.


The dancers perform heroically, and one can only wonder at their energy. The quality of movement is athletic and grounded, fluid at times and jerky and robotic at others. McLellan in particular impresses with her intensity, strength and fluidity.


The pattern of the movement is full of circles: for example, using the impetus of whirling around in lifts, or rotating on the spot like a dervish, or running in circles, and people circling each other. The group of dancers sometimes huddle in a circle, moving in close action and reaction to each other, like a flock of birds. They also undulate in slow motion, like a group of sea creatures. There is a great deal of floor work.



The lighting (Niklas Pajanti) is subtle, often quite dim, with simple minimal colours that correspond well with the cosmic soundscape and the monumental set – such as gold, and pink strengthening to red. These are the only touches of colour other than shades of grey (for the backdrop, the wall, and the costumes).


The costumes (Harriet Oxley) are lovely. In contrast to the dominating set and the sound, and more aligned with the mood of the lighting, they are delicate and almost transparent. Of fine, pale, lightly patterned fabric, the combinations of tunics, wide pants, long skirts, and sleeveless tops are reminiscent of Ancient Greek or Roman draperies.


The whole creative team was represented on the 9-strong panel for the Q&A (facilitated by Bradley Chatfield, formerly with Sydney Dance Company, and more recently with Dancenorth and the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts). All were very passionate about their particular discipline and about the collaborative process of creating Dust.


The different creative elements in this work all make a powerful impression. However, for me they did not gel as a whole: rather, they seemed to be struggling for dominance, a struggle won by the set. At around 70 minutes, the work is not over-long, but is repetitious in parts.


In the current drought, the title Dust might first suggest clouds of windblown particles of soil. However, on reflection, the biblical idea that we are all made of dust seems more relevant: ‘… out of [the ground] wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Genesis 3:19).


Rainbow Vomit

Rainbow Vomit

Brisbane Festival, Channel Nine & Dancenorth

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

September 21–24 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway


We … set out to create a low-fi phantasmagoria – a world in which dream, fantasy, illusion and play were funnelled through unreality …

Kyle Page and Amber Haines

Dancenorth’s Rainbow Vomit was created to appeal to a young audience, but also to people of all ages. With its sense of fun and play, its colour and ingenuity in design, and unfettered naturalistic movement, it engages everyone. On opening night of its Brisbane Festival season at the Judith Wright Centre, it was lovely to hear the reactions of children in the audience, laughing and showing their surprise, delight and curiosity.

The title of this piece, directed and choreographed by Artistic Director Kyle Page and Artistic Assistant/Rehearsal Director Amber Haines, is intriguing. Does it refer to the overload of information and entertainment from electronic media? Or the gushing forth of creative ideas? Or creativity unleashed in the medium of dance, away from the realm of the iPad, the smartphone and the computer?

Rainbow Vomit starts off quietly in black and white, and through various scenes, builds to a frenzy of colour, sound, imagination and movement. Lighting and set designer Govin Ruben, costume designer Andrew Treloar, and composer Alisdair Macindoe have created an incredible rainbow world, full of surreal creatures, with a soundtrack combining voice, sound effects (such as watery slurping and gurgling), clapping, drumming, bells, and simple, repeated tunes.

At first, the dancers (Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan and Georgia Rudd) are plainly dressed in black and white pyjama-style tops and pants, and sitting on clear, colourless plastic exercise balls.

They at first appear to be watching TV, their synchronised reactions and exclamations showing the contrast between the excitement of what must be on the invisible screen, and their own relatively passive state. Then they move to gazing down and swiping at invisible iPads, while the soundtrack plays children’s voices, electronically blurred, describing how they feel when using these devices.

The exercise balls become objects to play with instead of sitting on. The dancers fall on them, bounce on them, tumble over and around them, and dribble them. It is exhilarating and fun to watch, and you feel yourself wishing you could do that too.

The style of movement is established in this segment. It is at the same time very natural-seeming, yet athletic; relaxed and flexible, yet powerful.

The dancers move fluidly and through every plane without pause, apparently effortlessly. Their energy, expressiveness and prowess are phenomenal.

A large exercise ball morphs gradually into a pingpong ball for the next segment, provoking shrieks of joy from the younger audience members. The dancers now appear to be robots, with pingpong balls in their mouths, like some alien kind of teeth. They blow the balls out of their mouths at the audience and each other.

Next, in multicoloured costumes, and with their long hair flung forwards over their faces, Jenni Large and Georgia Rudd form a segmented creature, moving as one. In ‘plank’ position, with their heads pressed together, they form a bridge, and then entwine, roll and jump together. Harrison Hall flies through a solo in this scene, leaping with abandon.

A silver virtual reality helmet is the focus of the next scene. The electronic flashing, buzzing and crackling emitted when a dancer puts on the helmet contrast with the twittering of birds and joyful expressions of the other dancers when the helmet is removed.

Ashley McLellan’s character is fascinated by the helmet, and while wearing it she is manipulated by a dancer behind her, waving her arms and body like a sea creature moved by underwater currents. The changing colour of the light – red, green and purple – leads into the colour extravaganza of the final scenes.

For these scenes, the audience (and the dancers at first) don ‘fireworks glasses’ made of holographic diffraction film. These multiply images and refract light into myriads of rainbows. The green rims glow in the ultraviolet light, creating an eerily comic effect when the dancers move in a close group (multiplied many-fold by our glasses).

The psychedelic wonder is cranked up even further when, on a darkened stage, the dancers each hold two small lights. As they move the lights, we see an explosion of moving rainbows in very intense colours in an almost out-of-body experience.

When the main lights come on again for the final scene, there is a riot of colour. At first just hanging between columns at the side, and then filling more and more spaces across the stage, are multicoloured strands of UV-reactive rope (7.6 kilometres of it altogether). The colours glow in the UV light, as do drifts of coloured pingpong balls on the floor.


The final incarnation of the dancers is in the form of surreal imaginary creatures, including two unicorns (with flexible over-head masks and glowing lips), while the dancer wearing the magic helmet is on a swing, swooping through it all.

This show is a joyous and uplifting experience, full of wonderful dance and magical effects.

And you get to keep the glasses! To prolong the magic, if you are NOT driving (!) try them out after an evening performance. The smallest intersection with traffic lights becomes a wonderland, while travelling along a six-lane road is mindblowing!


If _ Was _


If _ Was _

Judith Wright Centre & Dancenorth

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

June 23–25 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway


If Form Was Shifted is a virtuosic reflection of the thought process structured through group manipulation.

Ross McCormack

If Never Was Now is a surreal hive of buzzing activity reflecting the beauty and brutality of the natural world.

Stephanie Lake

Dancenorth’s Artistic Director Kyle Page set choreographers Stephanie Lake and Ross McCormack a challenge, the end result of which is the double bill If _ Was _.

The challenge was for each to create a work of the same set duration, to sound selected from the same composition (by Robin Fox), using lighting from one design (by Bosco Shaw), and costume design based on one pattern (by Andrew Treloar). During the creation process, neither knew anything about the other’s work.

While these conditions might appear restrictive and likely to produce similar results, the works create very different impressions, McCormack’s dark and more introspective, and Lake’s vivid and full of energy. That said, they do have in common a robotic, ‘popping’ style of movement at times, and in both, the dancers seem to represent non-human creatures living in different dimensions of our world.

For the titles and themes of their works, the choreographers filled in the blanks. McCormack created If Form Was Shifted, which reflects group manipulation of the thought process, and manipulation of the body. Lake created If Never Was Now, a piece about creatures changing in response to a frenetically changing world.

The choreographers chose different segments and combinations of the electronic sound composition. These range from continuous reverberating chords, buzzing noises, repetitive phrases and beating rhythms, overlaid at times by bell sounds or beeping noises.

Each set of costumes creates a very different effect. The trackpants, singlets and shorts for McCormack’s work are dark and unobtrusive; for Lake’s, the dancers all wear trackpants (red with a white stripe for the men, and deep salmon with a red stripe for the women), the men are bare-chested and the women wear flesh-coloured bras.

If Form Was Shifted is the first work on the program. It begins and ends with four of the five dancers standing around speakers on the floor towards the back of the space, and a lone dancer downstage left. This lone figure is a male dancer at the beginning, and a female dancer at the end, echoing the theme of transformation.

The combination of the lighting and the dark costumes emphasises the dancers’ arms and their muscularity, particularly in the first solo, where the man’s hands with splayed fingers are a focal point. In another section, dancers contort their faces into rubbery grimaces. In the final grouping, the lone female dancer moves like a long-legged bird.

The most striking moments of the work involve the whole group moving as one organism, or one shifting aggregate of organisms, with the boundaries between individuals vanishing. Occasionally one dancer rises to the top of a huddle and continues to move on the backs of the other dancers, or is extruded from the centre of a group and reincorporated. The impression is of a constant flux or process of transformation.

The second work, If Never Was Now, opens with two dancers in a circle of white on the floor. The circle has texture, and I wonder what it’s made of – rice? sand? The answer is small polystyrene beads.

The circle is soon broken up by the dancers, whose movements sweep and fan the beads into different patterns on the floor, and into fluid drifts and flurries, with mesmerising effect. They also press the beads onto their faces and bodies as decoration, resembling dots of paint.

Changes in the lighting add other dimensions to the beads, different angles making them look like a relief map on the floor, or showing up every bead, while ultraviolet light makes them glow. Finally, a column of the beads drifts down over the one dancer remaining on stage, and as she sits and then lies down, her movements make the whole column undulate like smoke.

The movement in this piece is generally fast, with turns and jumps, grappling, stamping and running, as well as floorwork. The dancers appear to be creatures fiercely intent on living to the utmost. As in the first piece, their movement is birdlike at times, and they move like a flock at one point. Two dancers mirror each other in one segment, shimmying and increasing their range and speed of movement.

The Dancenorth dancers (Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan and Georgia Rudd) are strong and superfit. In both pieces, they show an incredible athleticism that really lets fly in Lake’s work.

Kyle Page must be pleased with the result of his ‘fill the blanks’ experiment. Both pieces transcend the limitations of the conditions he has imposed, appear to fulfil their choreographers’ intentions, and are absorbing and exhilarating to watch.


In Two Minds


In Two Minds


Brisbane Powerhouse Powerhouse Theatre

August 26 to 27 2015


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway



Driven by inimitable natural forms, the performers interact like flocking birds, schools of fish and clouds in the wind.


A Pre-emptive Requiem for Mother Nature (program notes)





… the only thing that separates us is our skin.


Syncing Feeling (program notes)



Synchronisation, mirroring, and empathy are core themes running through both of the new works in Dancenorth’s double bill In Two Minds.





First is A Pre-emptive Requiem for Mother Nature, by Alisdair Macindoe in collaboration with the dancers (Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, and Ashley Mclellan). Melbourne-based Macindoe is a multi-talented artist: dancer, composer, choreographer and, for this work, projection designer and costume designer.


To slow, dirge-like music by Henryk Górecki, the dancers appear in a tight group, moving close together in slow motion, with frequent pauses, which gives the viewer a feeling of suspension, almost like floating. The duration of movement between the pauses varies. When it is shorter, the effect is of watching time-lapse film.


As the music swells and fades, the dancers move like a school of fish, in unison, with pauses and sudden changes of direction. They also sway, like kelp undulating in the sea.


In later sequences, they appear like a flock of birds, making fleeting wing shapes with their arms, and joining their hands in a point like beaks. At the end, they are rolling and slow-motion tumbling on the floor – which I took to represent the motion of clouds mentioned in the program notes.


The feeling projected by the dancers is of absorption and preoccupation with the creatures and environment whose essence is being expressed.


The movement varies from slow motion, to very fast small jerky movements and jumps, counterpointing the slower waves of the music. It appears loose and relaxed, but is also very precise and controlled.


How do the dancers manage to match their movements so completely and move so precisely when they are so close together? This is the same question people ask about schools of fish and flocks of birds.




The dancers wear simple, androgynous pants and tops in light, neutral colours. Film of the dancers is projected on a transparent screen in front of them, overlaid at different angles from the performers on stage.


The projections later change to images like magnified particles drifting in water, and kaleidoscopic or fractal images like bees in a hive. The projections enrich the visual impact of the work, and magnify its effect: although there are only four dancers, the effect is of watching a much larger group.


The cosmic scale of Górecki’s music sweeps over this work, amplifying its poignancy and beauty.


Syncing Feeling by Amber Haines (Rehearsal Director/Artistic Assistant) and Kyle Page (Artistic Director of the company) explores the many different possibilities in a duet.


The dancers mirror each other, close together but without touching; Haines stands with one side of her body shuddering and twitching as if suffering electric shocks, and Page clasps her to stop it; they lie on the floor, with arms and legs waving like tentacles; they do many fast jumps and turns; they run; and there are some virtuosic lifts that fit in so completely with the rapid continuous flow that you almost wonder if they happened.




In one amusing sequence, the only sound is their breath sucking in and the whoosh as their mouths attach like suckers to various parts of the other’s body. They also manipulate a large piece of dark fabric, disappearing underneath it to form monstrous shapes. In solos, Haines runs, shudders, and moves as if swimming on the floor, while Page contorts his arms impossibly around his head and upper body.


The movement is soft, boneless and very fluid. There is virtuosity, but this is not saying ‘look at me’ – it grows out of the other movement, like a wave building in the sea. Similarly organic and understated, the costumes are simple off-white pants and tops (designed by Fiona Todd-Logos) that don’t attract attention.


The mood and movement correspond to a sound track by Alisdair Macindoe that ranges through many different dimensions: reverberating and dirge-like to start with; high-pitched whistling; sparking, buzzing noises, and thudding like heartbeats; bell chimes; and loud, grinding booms.




In their program notes, Haines and Page refer to theories of mind, metacognition, and mirror neurons that drove the creation of Syncing Feeling and its aim to illuminate human cognitive processes, such as empathy, understanding others’ actions and feelings, and learning by imitation.


Metacognition is an awareness of our own knowledge, the processes involved in learning, and how to control these processes. Mirror neurons are brain cells that are active both when we perform a physical act, and when we watch someone else perform that act. They have been used to explain why we identify with and experience other people’s actions when we watch them.


For instance, when we watch dance, it is believed that we ‘experience’ the movement ourselves almost as if we were doing it. This feeling has been described as ‘kinesthetic empathy’, a term and concept developed well before the theory of mirror neurons. So in Syncing Feeling, we watch two dancers mirror each other and respond to each other, and we unconsciously mirror them.


Dancenorth’s In Two Minds embodies a freshness and humanity, a purity of movement, and a depth of thought that are uplifting and inspiring.


Lucky Townsville, to have Dancenorth based there. I hope the company can visit Brisbane more often.



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.


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