Posts Tagged ‘guangdong modern dance company

23
May
16

When Time Stops: Director’s Cut

 

When Time Stops: Director’s Cut

QPAC & Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Playhouse

May 20–28 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

Natalie Weir's When Time Stops. Image by Chris Herzfeld. Image shows EDC full company with Camerata of St John's

The dancers’ commitment and trust bring new energy and vision to the work. They are responsible for bringing it to life. It belongs to them.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

 

When Time Stops is intense, moving, and beautiful. In a series of impressionistic scenes, a dying woman re-experiences significant events in her life, and says goodbye, finally moving into another realm and accepting her inevitable death.

 

In this 2016 restaging of When Time Stops, Expressions’ Artistic Director Natalie Weir has made some changes, and has refreshed the work in collaboration with new and former cast members. The original 2013 version was powerful – this one even more so.

The music, composed specifically for this work by Iain Grandage, won a 2014 Helpmann Award for Best Original Score. It creates a dark, rich string sound, with poignant solos for cello and violin.

The live performance by the string players of the Camerata of St John’s is spellbinding. Dressed in black and with bare feet, the twelve musicians play from memory, moving on and offstage and in among the dancers, sometimes enclosing them in lines. Outnumbering the dancers, they are visually striking, but not overpowering.

The overriding impression of the dancers is of fearless strength and unrestrained emotional expression.

Michelle Barnett as the Woman excels in her first leading role with Expressions. It is a demanding performance, physically and emotionally, requiring a great expressive range. Barnett sweeps us along with her, and her final acquiescence, as the light shining on her face dims, is a wrenching moment.

A constant reminder of death and the crossing into another world is the archetypal Ferryman (guest dancer Thomas Gundry Greenfield), who waits to take the woman on her final journey. For much of the time, he sits in the background in his boat, rowing, and facing away from the audience.

Gundry Greenfield’s muscularity, combined with slow, controlled movement, and his watchful, ominous presence, make the Ferryman a dominant figure, at times pulling the Woman towards death, and at other times repelling her or trying to prolong her life.

In the section ‘Time’, guest dancer Xiao Zhiren (Guangdong Modern Dance Company) recreates the solo originally performed by Daryl Brandwood. Flexible and fluid, he is a worthy successor to Brandwood, twisting his body impossibly and recovering effortlessly.

Natalie Weir's When Time Stops. Image by Chris Herzfeld. Image shows Rebecca Hall_low res

The Woman alternates between observing her younger self, played by other dancers, and reliving her own experiences. In ‘First Kiss’, Rebecca Hall and Benjamin Chapman capture the joy and tenderness of a youthful love affair, the movement exultant, with lifts whirling through the air.

Barnett is partnered by guest dancer Jake McLarnon in ‘Knocked Sideways’, the evocation of a violent and dysfunctional relationship, where Barnett is flung and wrenched through acrobatic movement. In this role, McLarnon creates a character with a convincingly cold and threatening presence.

Showing great expressivity and strength, Cloudia Elder features in ‘Scan’, at first pressed against a large panel of light, and then moving away to convey fear, disbelief and despair.

Following ‘Scan’, the Woman relives her reaction to the news about her illness. As if one person can’t contain the enormity of it, McLarnon and Chapman partner Barnett in expressing her rage and grief through uninhibited movement.

The mood changes in the elegiac ‘Last Kiss’, where the Woman farewells a friend (Xiao Zhiren). In this gentler duo, Zhiren and Barnett match each other in expressing a sense of loss, nostalgia, yearning and compassion, taking it in turns to carry each other.

In the ‘Cardiac’ scene, Elise May recreates the Woman’s final struggle for life. The Ferryman, this time in the guise of a rescuer, administers chest compressions to try and resuscitate her. Barnett is watching, as if the Woman’s spirit is already separated from her body.

May is a very powerful performer, completely sublimating movement into emotion. Her sudden coughing and choking in the Woman’s death throes seem incongruous, however, as none of the dancers have previously vocalised in any way. This breaks the intensity of the performance.

Bill Haycock’s design for the show gives an effect of elemental simplicity, with walls of a tilted room, and projected images of clouds, and stars in a night sky. The lighting by David Walters is often muted, and pierced by shafts of light from a tall, narrow doorway. The dancers’ costumes (calf-length dresses for the women, and long pants and loose shirts for the men) are in neutral light shades, apart from Barnett’s, which is black.

After the show and the extended applause, the audience was still so wrapped up in the performance that they stayed in their seats briefly, and moved out of the theatre slowly, talking about the experience. You know it has been a great night in the theatre when this happens.

When Time Stops is on until Saturday 28 May at the Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre. Book here

15
Feb
16

BLACK

 

BLACK

QPAC, Expressions Dance Company & Guangdong Modern Dance Company

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

February 12 – 20 2016

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

I believe in these programs, keeping EDC connected to the world and bringing new aesthetics and ideas to our company. I am proud EDC is part of such a heartfelt and meaningful dance exchange.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

EDC_Black_16_event

Black is a program of three works resulting from a collaboration between Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and Guangdong Modern Dance Company (GMDC), mainland China’s first professional contemporary dance company. This is part of EDC’s Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Program 2015–2020, in which EDC will later partner with BeijingDance/LDTX, and City Contemporary Dance Company from Hong Kong.

First, GMDC performs Sumeru, created by resident choreographer Liu Qi, followed by EDC performing Don’t, choreographed by Artistic Director Natalie Weir. The program concludes with the work Black, created for the combined companies by Hong-Kong-based choreographer Xing Liang.

This program isn’t all black! The colour white is the dominant visual impression of Sumeru, the first work. The dancers all wear various combinations of white tops, shorts, skirts and dresses in soft, light fabric. The effect, combined with the power and yet softness and flow of the movement, is of ethereality overlying great energy.

The title of Sumeru is the name of a sacred mountain, believed to be the centre of the world in Buddhist and Hindu cosmology. In creating this work, choreographer Liu Qi was inspired by an ancient saying to the effect that a tiny mustard seed contains Mount Sumeru, and Mount Sumeru contains the mustard seed.

The fluidity of the movement, sometimes in slow motion reminiscent of tai chi, and sometimes flying through the air in whirling lifts, creates a mesmeric effect matching the enigmatic and reversed perspectives of the saying. The music (by Thomas Lee Pettersen and Kung Chi Shing) contributes to this effect, with the sounds of bells, gongs, piano, and drumming.

Sumeru is beautiful to watch.

Natalie Weir’s Don’t, originally choreographed in 2012 and performed in Melbourne, has been reworked for its Brisbane premiere as part of this season. The opening and closing images are memorable: Richard Causer, shirtless and with his back to the audience, undulates and flexes his back and arm muscles, lit in such a way that the pattern they make takes on an independent life of its own. Causer is making a welcome return to EDC after four years in London.

EDC's Black_Image shows L-R Zhang Congbin and Liu Qingyu in SUMERU_Image by David Kelly_low res

Don’t is about the concepts represented by simple words, including ‘don’t’ and ‘stay’, and their interpretation in relationships between men and women. Tension in relationships is the driving force, especially around the word ‘don’t’, with its connection to issues such as consent, and violence. Couples variously draw close to each other, and break free, with other permutations in between.

The words are presented very literally, using cut-out letters manipulated by the dancers. This literalness felt and looked awkward at times: perhaps the words could be represented in a more subtle way, or not appear at all?

The EDC dancers infuse Weir’s inventive choreography with maximum drama, particularly Causer, Michelle Barnett and Elise May. Trainee Jag Popham, a third-year student from the New Zealand School of Dance, made an impressive debut with the company.

Black, the work for the combined companies, was created in 2015 in Guangzhou. There EDC and GMDC spent four weeks working together, and first performed the piece as a work in progress. Choreographer Xing Liang and the dancers have explored the associations and expressions of the colour black, and occasionally its opposite, white – which are the only colours used in the costumes (designed by Linda Lee).

The piece is impressionistic, with a series of disconnected evocations of the colour black, creating some beautiful moments and strong images in a series of ‘clips’ rather than a cohesive flow. Black is associated with pain, concealment, a primordial darkness, violence, protection, and a meditative peace.

At the beginning the male dancers gasp and exhale loudly, and groan raspingly as if in pain. After a period of silence, the women fold, wave and flow in slow motion. They crouch and scuttle like creatures hiding in the dark, or appear to be hatching out of the darkness, or flocking together for protection.

In a threatening scene, four men menace another, and surround him as he tries to escape. Later, the lighting silhouettes the dancers, some standing, and others glimpsed crawling and sliding on the floor.

A woman dressed completely in white moves stiffly and awkwardly, as the antithesis of black. Appearing early in the work, she is also the final figure on stage, reaching up into a shaft of light in an image of yearning.

The music (by Kung Chi Shing) varies from bell sounds in slower sections, to piano and birdsong, to faster, more aggressive percussion sequences.

Natalie Weir's Don't - image shows Cloudia Elder - image by David Kelly 2

In this collaborative program for EDC and GMDC, it was interesting to compare the styles of each company. The GMDC dancers combined strength with a wonderful fluidity and control, while the EDC dancers’ strength was sharper and more staccato. EDC overlaid the movement with more drama; for GMDC, the movement itself was the drama.

An abiding impression from this triple bill is how wonderful it would be to see EDC double in size. The company’s seven outstanding dancers certainly held their own, but GMDC’s fifteen dancers demonstrated the power of a larger ensemble.

A collaboration like this one between EDC and GMDC can show everyone – dancers, choreographers, composers, designers, and the audience – other ways and other styles, and is an enriching experience.

Black continues until 20 February, at QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre.