Posts Tagged ‘gareth belling





Collusion Music & Dance Ensemble

Brisbane Powerhouse

May 23 – 26 2018


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway


Turbine began life as a meditation on masculinity, climate change and marriage equality. We sought to build a team, a community, and see how it functioned …

Turbine looks into ourselves, our histories and our heritages … It is an exploration of our personal and creative identities …

Gareth Belling, Choreographer


Turbine is about struggling with identity so the music needed to be disparate things, coming together. So I looked for broken things. Tarnished, old – with their own sound …

It’s not often when I’m really lost about whether to categorise a work of mine as coming from Praxis Axis or ‘actual me’. This is one of those times: 19th century late romanticism curiously entwined with 21st century glitch and industrial.

Thomas Green, Composer



Collusion Music & Dance Ensemble’s latest chamber ballet, Turbine, was created for this year’s MELT Festival, an annual celebration of Brisbane’s queer communities, presented by the Brisbane Powerhouse. It explores power and vulnerability, the revealing of identity, being true to oneself, and relating freely and honestly to others.


While Turbine started out as a work about gay male identity, choreographer Gareth Belling said in publicity for the show that he and his team realised that issues of power, identity, marginalisation and equality are relevant to all of us.


The strength and intensity of the work are heightened by the small performance space of the Turbine Studio, the closeness of the three dancers and three musicians to the audience, and their power and focus. The audience is seated on two opposite sides of the performance space, on the same floor level as the performers. This brings us very close to some very high-energy movement.


The dancers (Belling, Michael Smith and Jacob Watton) are a powerful combination. They meet the challenge of this endurance test of a work, but they are sweating and panting by the end.


The movement includes many demanding lifts, patterns of throwing, falling, catching and supporting each other, and crashing to the floor, interspersed with moments of tenderness, passion, and complex intertwining of limbs and bodies – in one case, the three bodies interlink and open like a flower. Early in the piece, out-of-sync robotic movement and tinkling fractured music create the effect of broken creatures.


The dancers wear black ‘stubbies’ shorts and navy-blue singlets – starkly effective and accentuating the masculine energy of the movement. They also don modified red bike helmets at times – not just on the head, but placed over the face – to represent the masks/armour/shells we all hide behind. The helmets are visually dramatic and transform the dancers into groping, insect-like beings.


The impressions of the dancers that stayed in my mind are not only of their athleticism and commitment, but of the characters they portray – Watton projecting a sense of tenderness, hope and openness, Belling an intensity and suppressed anger, and Smith a sense of unhappiness and vulnerability.



The live music envelops us throughout the performance. Composer Thomas Green (eye-catching in bright red overalls) manages the electronics, and violinists Benjamin Greaves and Camille Barry produce some lush and romantic sound, intensifying at times to wild stridency, or dying away to gentle softness.


Green has incorporated the sounds of ‘broken things’ in his composition, including old toys, a music box, and prepared piano. Its mixture of electronic sounds, rich strings, fractured tinkling tunes, and dance music (including a darkly passionate cha cha) swing between joy, passion, tenderness, sadness, darkness and light. The lighting also creates these moods, varying from a red glow, to very bright light exposing the audience (a disconcerting feeling), to darkness lit by a dancer wearing a headlamp.


Turbine is a powerful work that makes a big impact. The music and dance complement each other, neither overshadowed by the other.


Its title is apt, in that turbines move continuously to produce power (and also, I’m guessing, in its association with the Powerhouse). I’m not sure how it relates to identity, however.


At just over an hour long, Turbine could perhaps be pruned a little towards the end to remedy a loss of impetus. A climactic moment about three-quarters of the way through heralded a possible ending. There was a feeling of anticlimax as the performance regrouped, building to another climax and winding down to finish with soft, poignant chords.









Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

September 2 to 5 2015


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway



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


Gareth Belling, choreographer



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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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



The Paratrooper Project


The Paratrooper Project

Phluxus2 Dance Collective

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

June 25 to July 4 2015


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway


Enter the trenches in this immersive new production…

Phluxus2 Dance Collective




The Paratrooper Project is promoted as an immersive experience, and this it certainly delivers. Described in the brief program notes as a dance theatre installation, it is the theatre that dominates.


War and conflict and their effects are the subject. Richard Matthaei, grandfather of Phluxus2’s Artistic Director Nerida Matthaei, was a paratrooper in World War II, and this work was inspired by mementoes he left behind.


The audience stood (or occasionally sat or lay) on the floor of the performance space in the Judith Wright Centre, with white parachutes and webbing suspended above us, sometimes billowing up and down, and covering the performers.


Their layered costumes (Lisa Fa’alafi) are all also white – pants, tunics, shirts, and military-looking coats with wide lapels. This makes the performers stand out amongst the audience, but could also connote ghostliness, death, and the afterlife.


the paratrooper project


The audience starts out standing huddled in a crowd under a tent-like parachute. Is it going to fall on us? Is there going to be sudden blackout? No, there are performers in there with us, they start speaking, and the parachute lifts.


The creators and performers – dancers Nerida Matthaei, Gareth Belling, Gabriel Comerford, and actor Margi Brown Ash – move through different areas of the performance space, the audience shifting (or being directed to shift) around them.


The sound design (Andrew Mills) includes clinking sounds like dishes or metal in a workshop, waves breaking, and a plaintive fragmentary tune.


Belling and Comerford represent soldiers or fighters, engaging in much violent, grappling movement, frequently crashing with full force onto the floor. They also enact roles of the wounded or dead, the torture victim, and the rescuer.


Matthaei is at first a grief-stricken woman, widowed by war; later, a chilling torturer; and then a rape victim. She and Brown Ash also speak of matters on the domestic front, such as tea and biscuits, and borrowing sugar.




Brown Ash is the dominant, compelling force in this work, her mesmerising authority and the power of her voice unequalled. In a surreal evocation of domesticity, she paces around while knitting and trailing an unravelling ball of wool behind her.


In this she echoes Madame Defarge, from Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, who incorporated the names of intended guillotine victims in her knitting, and also the Three Fates from Ancient Greek stories, who created and destroyed people’s lives by spinning and cutting thread.


Brown Ash also parodies a Churchillian wartime leader, exhorting and haranguing us; and huddles and flinches as a terrified torture victim.


This is not comfortable escapist theatre.


The audience is instructed, harangued, and physically directed around the space. Brown Ash took people by the hand and led them where they were meant to go, until the rest of us understood we were meant to follow. Others were invited to take part in some of the action.




Brown Ash orates at the end about the idea of war continuing on, and affecting us now. Moving amongst us, she then asks us to remember the dead, and give them a voice. Most of the audience engaged in a very personal way with this, seeming to forget where they were, and becoming totally absorbed in the moment.


This work is gripping and moving, and pulls you into its orbit.


Occasionally, though, the attention lapses when some parts go on a little too long (such as the dancers hurling themselves to the floor over and over at the end).




In Phluxus2’s previous work de-generator, the audience also followed the dancers around the space, but moved out of the way of the action without any guidance.


This current work is a more sophisticated and choreographed development of audience involvement. It is more powerful, covering more dimensions of experience, but also more coercive and controlling for the audience.


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