Posts Tagged ‘elise may

19
Apr
17

Behind Closed Doors with EDC

WHAT: Behind Closed Doors

WHERE: QPAC Playhouse

WHEN: Friday 19 May to Saturday 27 May 2017

A sneak peak ahead of the season…

By Ruth Ridgway

Behind Closed Doors

Coming up in Expressions Dance Company’s 2017 season is the new work Behind Closed Doors. Choreographer Natalie Weir and the dancers explore what lies behind the façade of outward appearance, and turn the audience into voyeurs. Taking us into the private lives of hotel guests and staff, they reveal human nature in its darkness, fragility, and playfulness. Behind Closed Doors features live jazz played by the contemporary music ensemble Trichotomy.

An interview with Natalie Weir, Artistic Director of Expressions Dance Company

What inspired you to create Behind Closed Doors? Is it connected with your 2010 work While Others Sleep, which explores what happens at night in a hotel?

Yes, this is a re-visioning of While Others Sleep, taking some of the central ideas but we’ve moved into different areas this time. I’ve always been interested in voyeurism. I did a work called Insight years ago here at EDC, also with Greg Clarke, the designer. It used the Edward Hopper painting, ‘Night Windows’ as its inspiration and it was about looking through an apartment’s window. While Others Sleep in 2010 had so many ideas within it that I thought were great and I wanted to take to another level. I also wanted to work with Trichotomy again. Our audiences have grown and many have not seen the work, so why not set it in a hotel again and put it on a main stage? It has so many elements that are of interest to the audience and so many short stories within it. The audience have all stayed in a hotel and may relate to the story.

How did you and Trichotomy work together on Behind Closed Doors? Has music been especially composed for this work?

The music is part of Trichotomy’s quite extensive body of work over many years with a lot of pieces composed by Sean Foran. Sean is such an amazing person to work with – everything is easy. I felt like we really gelled when we worked together the first time. I’ve listened to a lot of his original music and this time I’ve spent a lot of time listening to his new stuff. There’s a lot of talking backwards and forwards with Sean. He alters his original music for me to match what I need, and then finds a way to blend the scenes together. Music is extremely stimulating and, because it’s jazz, it immediately sets the mood. When creating the show I imagined that Sean and the band are in the lobby playing in an expensive hotel. The music has a lot of range. It can be cool, sexy jazz but can also be very dramatic and dark. When we get into the rehearsal studio with the band they will watch the choreography and will be able to respond to the dancer in front of them – there might even be some improvisation. We’re lucky also to be joined by Rafael Karlen on Saxophone and vocalist Kristin Berardi. The great thing about these guests is that, not only are they amazing but, because they are a saxophonist and a singer, they can move around the stage and can become part of the action.

How did you and the dancers create the work? Did you create characters and a narrative for the characters, or did you follow particular themes or concepts?

Some of the characters have remained from While Others Sleep and some are quite new. I usually enter the studio with a strong idea of the characters and talk to the dancers about it – and then it’s collaboration between the dancers and me. They create a lot of the movement themselves and I direct it. They also research their characters, which is great because it takes them on a journey through the work. It’s my job to direct the dancers into the right place and to pull all the parts together. This is a big work with a lot of different parts including a set that moves and revolves, so I make sure this comes together seamlessly and keep the direction of the work moving forward. The dancers aren’t dancing what I tell them – it comes from them and then I shape it. I don’t tell them how to be a character they make that decision and own it, which makes it far more personal

The publicity for Behind Closed Doors has a ‘noir’ feel to it, but also mentions playfulness and fragility. How would you describe the balance of the moods and emotions in the work?

It is a balancing act because there are moments that are light and frivolous and others that are very dark. It’s finding a way to structure the work so that each of the moments has a time to be, but not detract from the other and that’s about finding the through line from the work from start to finish. Once you have all the parts you have to bring them together and the work has to be larger than the sum of the parts. While each part has its part as a small story and is part of the theme, it’s the strong narrative that brings it together. Some of the scenes go into the absurd and tongue-in-cheek and it wonders through the landscape of the human psyche. I think it will be very entertaining but it definitely has some depth and guts.

The publicity images of Elise May and Richard Causer in evening dress are very glamorous. Can you tell us more about the costumes and design of the work

The show is set in a very classy hotel and the costumes are designed to range from being quite real through to being quite fantastical. There are so many characters and scenes and the costumes are really important in bringing out the story and the images of the work and making us believe that the characters are real. Greg Clarke, the designer, has been influenced by the photography of Gregory Crewsden and films such as Blue Velvet and Mystery Train. There’s men’s suits, some glamorous dresses and even some underwear. And then some fantasy items that you need to see to understand! The design is really stunning. The costume design exposes the characters and helps inform the audience about who these people are and where they’re from.

The work can put the audience into the role of voyeur. How do you think they may feel about this? How has this potential audience response influenced the creation of the work?

At times the audience are like voyeurs watching something that perhaps they shouldn’t be, as if looking through a window or a door, but other times the characters really take the audience on their journey. That’s when the magic happens – the audience goes from being a voyeur to feeling like they believe in these characters and feel joy, sadness and darkness alongside them. It should be a wonderful theatrical experience for the audience because the gamut of the work is so broad from quite funny to very sad. It will be a roller-coaster ride. Isn’t that what theatre should do – transform the audience…?

Finally, what do you hope the audience takes away with them from Behind Closed Doors?

I know the audience will leave in absolute admiration at the beauty and physicality of the dancers and they will be in raptures over the incredible music played live. Having the musicians on stage playing live changes the theatrical experience. I hope the audience will recognise moments of their own lives, or someone they know within the work, and I hope they come away smiling and feeling moved. To connect to the audience is my ultimate aim. This work does not seek to alienate anyone, but to connect them. I always say that dance has the power to move people, even when you’re not sure why, and that’s its ultimate power.

Two quick questions for dancer Elise May:

What have you always wanted to know about what goes on ‘behind closed doors’ in a hotel?

As a dancer I’ve spent countless time checking in and out of hotel rooms on tour. There is a certain an allure to the homogenised hotel experience, no matter where you travel there are crisp white sheets, city views and monochrome corridors. But when you spend enough time in hotels you begin to notice the coming and going of other guests and wonder about the reasons for their stay or observe the odd hours that people keep. On occasions I have even started to project my imagination into the enclosed private spaces on the other side of the walls or behind the hotel doors… What is happening in the room beside mine? In a very identical room a very different scenario might be playing out, what could it possibly be? The inner private worlds of others has been a topic of interest in popular culture for some time. The concept of voyeurism has been featured in films such as ‘Rear Window’, ‘Minority Report’, American Beauty and countless others. For me, this fascination with the private lives of others is really an interesting starting point for a creative work and provides lots of meaty areas of exploration in terms of character development and movement creation. 

Can you briefly describe your role(s) in Behind Closed Doors, and how you have prepared for them?

My role in Behind Closed Doors is that of a lonely woman who is dealing with feelings of vulnerability and loss of her recently departed husband. We see her character first in the earlier stages of their relationship when they visited the hotel on their honeymoon. The romantic getaway was one of perfection in her memory and is an experience that comes back to haunt her as she returns to the hotel after his death. In an attempt to reconcile her feelings of grief and move on with her life she travels on quite an emotional journey throughout the work. In preparing for this role physically I have experimented with many different qualities of movement from abandoned, flung, weighty movements to angular, anguished and sharp dynamics. My role also involves a lot of incredibly intricate and sculptural partner work which is Natalie Weir’s choreographic forte. In researching the role I also looked into the 5 (or 7) stages of grieving as coined by psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross which can manifest as a mixture/ or ‘jumble’ of strong emotions experienced by those who face major life changes including loss, the prospect of death or the death of a loved one. Although my role deals with some very heavy content, I think Natalie’s choreography weaves these scenes and characters together in a way which is poetic and really casts a microscope or possibly even a mirror over the human condition.

Natalie Weir's Behind Closed Doors. EDC. Image shows EDC's Richard Causer 2. Image by Jeff Camden COLOUR.low res. jpg

Two quick questions for dancer RIchard Causer:

What is your most memorable ‘behind the scenes’ experience at a hotel?

A few years ago I worked part time in a five star luxury hotel in London called Cafe Royal. There I was privy to many behind the scenes moments. One exciting memory I have was something I thought only happened in the movies. I worked as the restaurant host and events host. We would be given a guest list of names that we would expect to arrive for certain private functions or events. As these guests arrived I realised I was welcoming many A-list celebrities who checked in under fake names. It was extremely exciting as this happened on many occasions and I would have to contain my excitement which I never did too well. Instead I would lose all use of words and just smile from ear to ear. Not subtle at all!

What has been the creative process for you, as a dancer, working with Natalie Weir as the choreographer for Behind Closed Doors?

Working with Natalie is always such a heart-warming experience. The rehearsals are always calm and everyone is very respectful and supportive of each other. Working on Behind Closed Doors has been a fun satisfying challenge, we are all working with specific characters and get to play dress ups a lot. I have enjoyed researching my character by watching some great films and reading some interesting online forums which continue to feed me with new stimulus. What is great about working with Natalie is she allows us the freedom to continue developing our roles from the beginning of the process to the very last performance.

24
Aug
15

7 Deadly Sins

 

7 Deadly Sins

Expressions Dance Company (EDC)

QPAC Playhouse

August 21 to 29 2015

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

7deadlysins_chrisherzfeldcamlight

 

‘We are committed to contemporary storytelling that touches the human spirit …’

 

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

 

In EDC’s latest work, the seven deadly sins enter in a blaze of gold, and then strip back to reveal the darkness beneath, battling for supremacy over each other and over a hapless Man.

 

Initially, we see the Man (Thomas Gundry Greenfield) watching TV, with the eerie flicker of the changing images reflected over him. As he sits in a vegetative state, his soul appears to rise from his body to indulge in or wrestle with the sins. His body stays as a lifeless dummy in front of the TV set, and this is where the soul returns in the end.

 

Each sin – Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Envy, Pride and Wrath – is represented by a single dancer. They each wear a distinctive gold costume – all stunningly opulent, except for Sloth’s simple, loose shift. After a spectacular entrance by each sin in turn, appearing out of boxes of various sizes, the costumes are discarded to reveal the dancers in brief black practice wear. Every dancer has a wonderful initial solo, punctuated by various duos and other combinations with the Man, with each other, and as a whole group.

 

Natalie Weir's 7 Deadly Sins_Photo shows Daryl Brandwood (top) and Benjamin Chapman (bottom)_Photo by Chris Herzfeld_med res

 

The boxes echo the Ancient Greek myth of Pandora’s box, which contained all human evils and miseries. Pandora opened the box, releasing evil into the world. The boxes also echo the initial inspiration for the work: paintings of human vices by Giotto di Bondone, an Italian artist of the 13th–14th century, who depicted each vice as a single, closely framed human figure.

 

7 Deadly Sins is an abstract expression of the sins’ essence, rather than a strongly narrative work, although there are elements of narrative. For instance, the first sin to appear is Sloth (Cloudia Elder), summoned by the Man’s TV-induced inertia. The scenario could be interpreted literally as television being the source of all sin – another incarnation of Pandora’s box – but that might be going too far, and the connection is a looser, more dreamlike one.

 

Following the appearance of Greed (Daryl Brandwood) and Gluttony (Jack Ziesing), they and the Man attack Sloth, hurling her into the air and catching her in a savage display. The feeling is that they are forcing her into showing some energy.

 

7deadlysins_elisemay

 

Towards the end, after Wrath (Michelle Barnett) has appeared, the whole group dances in a frenzy, and the Man hits out at Lust (Elise May). In this violent interpretation of ‘to spurn love and opt for fury’ (as the program notes describe wrath), she becomes a wounded creature trying to escape from him. In this scene, May seems to represent Love, rather than the coldly seductive Lust she portrays earlier with awe-inspiring grace and control. In her gold costume, she looks like a princess from some ancient world.

 

The movement is intensely acrobatic, moving seamlessly through every dimension of the space. Elder, as Sloth, is a burden to the Man, dragging him down and, in a memorable image, hanging face-down and unsupported over his head in an inverted V. Gundry Greenfield is a strong, muscular figure as the Man, while also projecting a sense of bafflement and of being in thrall to the sins.

 

Brandwood makes Greed look savagely elegant, extending and contorting his limbs impossibly as he manoeuvres over, around, and out of a giant rectangular box. His polish and control always stand out. We will miss this wonderful dancer when he leaves EDC at the end of this year.

 

Ziesing is a very athletic Gluttony, after ridding himself of his outer gold costume that only mildly resembles a ‘fat suit’. Benjamin Chapman evokes an emperor with conquered subjects in a commanding interpretation of Pride.

 

Rebecca Hall is a snakelike Envy, slithering and twining – and making her entrance in a fabulous billowing gold snakeskin coat. As Wrath, Barnett projects strength and energy in her explosive movement, her legs and strongly arched feet like weapons.

 

Natalie Weir's 7 Deadly Sins_Photo shows L-R Elise May, Thomas Gundry Greenfield and Michelle Barnett_Photo by Chris Herzfeld

 

I could go on watching these dancers and this choreography forever, mesmerised by the feats the dancers perform, and the beauty and power of the movement choreographed by Artistic Director Natalie Weir, in collaboration with the dancers. Weir also acknowledges the important contribution to creation and staging by Rehearsal Director Amy Hollingsworth, formerly Dance Director with Sydney Dance Company.

 

The mesmerising choreography and movement distracted me from the confusing ending of the work, in terms of structure and flow. A conclusion seemed to be reached several times (at one point the audience starting to applaud as if this were the case) before the final resolution.

 

7 Deadly Sins makes a big visual and aural impact. The gold costumes are the dominant visible feature of Bill Haycock’s design, which he says in his program notes are inspired by the ‘currently popular “sword and sorcery” films’. The set, based on the idea of a gold living room, is minimal, enriched by the lighting (David Walters) in different tones of gold, and also blue and red.

 

Darrin Verhagen’s music (with additional material by Ben Keane) evokes each sin – slow and meditative for Sloth, overlaid with snuffling and muffled snoring sounds; driven percussion for Greed; slow and voluptuous for Lust; sinister for Envy, overlaid with hissing, and sly whispering (like Parseltongue, the Harry Potter serpent language); and frenzied drumming and hoarse screaming for Wrath.

 

7 Deadly Sins runs until 29 August.

 

 

31
Jul
14

The Red Shoes

 

The Red Shoes

Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Playhouse

July 18–26 2014

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Expressions Dance Company’s The Red Shoes, choreographed by Artistic Director Natalie Weir with the dancers, revisits the ‘story within a story’ of the 1948 movie of the same name and is set in the same era. The main character, Victoria, is performing in a pantomime based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and playing out a version of the story in her own life at the same time. In her case, the red shoes represent her obsession with her art form, which leads her into madness.

 

The dancers (particularly Elise May, Daryl Brandwood and Jack Ziesing) are a revelation in their commitment, their emotional intensity, and their execution of Weir’s dramatic and visually beautiful choreography. There are many sublime moments of dance and music, and the production looks striking, with its red, white and black costumes, glittering gold mirrors, and echoes of theatrical grandeur of the past (design by Bruce McKinven, lighting design by Matt Scott).

 

Elise May as Victoria is a glamorous 1940s-style heroine, drawing us into her tragedy, and dancing truly like one possessed. Her grace, stamina, and ability to express emotion in movement are phenomenal in this portrayal of the doomed character who dances to her death.

 

Elise May and Benjamin Chapman_The Red Shoes

 

We first see Victoria in the closing moments of the pantomime, taking her curtain calls, and then in an encounter with the Director (Daryl Brandwood). The Director is commanding and elegant in a dark suit, and while admiring Victoria, tries to control her. Victoria, however, is constantly turning away from him or has her back to him, and in a later duo, pushes him away, after dragging him along as a burden on her back.

 

After this rejection, Brandwood has a breathtaking solo – icily precise and classically formal one minute, and the next twisting and distorting as emotion breaks through. He is controlling and manipulating, but also expressing grief, and there is a feeling that he, too, is obsessed and near the edge.

 

The first duo for Victoria and her lover (Jack Ziesing) is tender and languorous, but finishes with Victoria distracted by her obsession with dance. The choreography here and throughout the work incorporates ‘360 degree’ movement and partnering: lifts don’t just go up and come down, but keep going in a circle to continue into another movement. As Weir and her dancers demonstrate again in this new work, her choreography constantly creates new ways for bodies to twine around each other in continuous, beautiful and inspiring movement.

 

In a flashback scene, we see the beginning of Victoria’s career and the start of her obsessive search for perfection in an audition where the young Victoria (Rebecca Hall) is first spotted by the Director. He starts to control and correct her, violently jerking her limbs into the correct positions as if she were a puppet. She then dances an anguished solo, fighting with the classical technique – Hall demonstrating strength and control to express this anguish, with many turns and balances.

 

As Victoria becomes more obsessed with a quest for perfection and with her image in the mirror, ‘Mirror Victoria’ (Natalie Allen) emerges. Allen’s ferocity of movement embodied the dark aggression of this side of Victoria’s character as she fights to take over the ‘real’ Victoria. At this point, film (by Sue Healey) is used to show the confusion in Victoria’s mind, with jumbled images of shoes, ribbons, and faces projected over her.

 

Jack Ziesing and Elise May_The Red Shoes

 

The Lover loses his struggle to reach Victoria as she descends into madness, and dances a grief-stricken solo that is one of the many high points of the work. Ziesing uses his height and strength to great effect, extending body and limbs in imploring movements and contracting and falling in despairing reaction.

 

This solo is followed quite soon after by the pantomime duo with Victoria and the Weeping Angel (Benjamin Chapman), dressed in white, whom Victoria confuses with her lover. Chapman is a compassionate, benevolent presence, with a rounded, flowing quality of movement and a calmness unique among these mainly haunted or haunting characters.

 

Jack Ziesing_The Red Shoes

 

The pantomime concludes with the Weeping Angel comforting and supporting the dying Victoria. The curtain comes down and we in the audience, like Victoria, can no longer distinguish between ‘reality’ and the ‘performance’, applauding what we think is the end of the show, until realising that we are hearing recorded applause, and that May is taking curtain calls as Victoria, not as herself.

 

This is disconcerting, but perhaps deliberate. However, it does lessen the impact of the character’s own death. When we realise what is happening, we see Victoria on an empty stage, in the void of madness, finally collapsing and dying again.

 

From the point where Victoria in the pantomime is compelled to dance to her doom by the Dark Angel (a lithely malevolent Sam Colbey paralleling the role of the Director in Victoria’s life), to the time of her own death, the focus shifts from the earlier intensity and complexity of the choreography to film of Victoria running through varied landscapes, to Victoria herself running and to the music and a flurry of emotion.

 

This concluding section could perhaps be tightened and ‘edited’, and the difference between the end of the pantomime, and the death of Victoria herself made more distinct. Shortening the work a little could, if anything, strengthen its impact. At about 1 hour 20 minutes, it is long for a performance without an interval.

 

The Southern Cross Soloists, playing live on stage, pour out a flood of ‘hauntingly beautiful’ music (Weir’s description in the program) for this production – from baroque to contemporary Italian and Australian composers. All the soloists are featured at some point, each in moments of such close relationship with the dancers and such lovely sound that it takes your breath away.

 

The Red Shoes_EDC_hero

 

19
May
14

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

 

Solo_14_event

 

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).

 

the-red-shoes-2014

 

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.

 

01
Nov
13

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 expressionsdancecompany.org.au