Posts Tagged ‘propel





Expressions Dance Company

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

March 3 to March 11 2017

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

Deeper than Ink L - R Michelle Barnett, Richard Causer, Alana Sargent, Benjamin Chapman, Jake McLarnon and Elise May

I feel I really need to be a champion for the art of contemporary dance and I take that very seriously.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, EDC

Propel is the second incarnation of an Expressions Dance Company (EDC) initiative to provide emerging and established choreographers with the opportunity to create new works on the company. Propel was introduced in 2014.

This is EDC’s first season for 2017. Former EDC dancer Richard Causer is back, along with long-term members Benjamin Chapman, Michelle Barnett and Elise May (now also promoted to Assistant to the Artistic Director). Jake McLarnon and Alana Sargent have recently joined the company. Sargent, formerly from Sydney Dance Company, also designed the costumes for Propel.

Hollow Lands - Alana Sargent

Opening the program was Hollow Lands by Lisa Wilson, the most experienced and established of the four choreographers. She was inspired by the light installation Through Hollow Lands by the Seattle-based artist/designer Etta Lilienthal.

Lighting designer Ben Hughes (with Bruce McKinven and Leonie Lee) has created a striking three-dimensional network of fluorescent tubes, arranged in rectangles with various sides missing, evoking Through Hollow Lands. Warm sidelighting of the dancers highlights their sculptural muscularity, enhanced by simple white shorts/skirts and tops, or dresses.

In her program notes, Wilson says her response to the installation was to explore the idea of ‘coming to the brink’. The six dancers approach the lights in awe and appear to be both attracted by them, and repelled by a force around them. They reach out, shrink away, and hurtle over the lights. At times they move away from the framework.

In a slower, more lyrical section, Elise May undulates, and Richard Causer and Alana Sargent dance a sensual duo. With all six dancers back on stage, the movement becomes more frenetic towards the end, before five fall to the floor, leaving one still upright.

Written on the Body - Jake McLarnon and Alana Sargent

Written on the Body-Benjamin Chapman and Michelle Barnett

In the second work, Written on the Body, Elise May combines dance and video, with the loose general theme being our perception and the effects of others on our own inner world. It was difficult to see how such a general theme related to the dance and the movement, except, of course, that the dancers are perceiving each other and affecting each other, and the audience is also perceiving them and affected by them. A feature of the work that does directly and strongly express connection is the complex shapes formed by two or more of the five dancers balancing on each other, or performing intricate lifts.

The video, extending across three separate screens at the back of the stage, sometimes consisted of staticky white dots, and at other times of intriguing, occasionally beautiful images, such as closeups of grass stems and leaves silhouetted against the sky.

When the images were interesting and beautiful, I tended to watch the video and not the dancers, and when the images were less arresting, I focused on the dancers instead. Is that the intention? It was hard to connect the images with the dancers’ movement.

Waiting Alone - Richard Causer

Chinese choreographer Xu Yiming has been working with EDC as part of the company’s Australia China Dance Exchange. His work Waiting Alone made a big impact, not only with its style and sound, but with the outstanding performance of Richard Causer.

In this short, intense solo, Causer’s strength and maturity enabled him to put his technique completely at the service of expressing emotion – loneliness, desperation, and a feeling of ‘What have I done?’ or ‘How can this be happening?’

Starting by turning slowly on the spot, and crescendoing in a frenzy of windmilling arms and seamless movement down to and up from the floor, Causer eventually subsided into a defeated crouch, with head bowed. Throughout the solo, the dancer repeatedly draws one or both hands down over his face and bows his head.

In a departure from the varied mix of electronic music/sound effects of the first two works, the soundtrack for Waiting Alone is the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for piano, overlaid with the sounds of screams, bangs, crashes, the wind whistling, and gulls crying. The sound and the dancer’s movement are a spine-tingling combination.

During this Propel season, EDC dancers Benjamin Chapman and Jake McLarnon will also perform Waiting Alone. It would be fascinating to see how each of the three dancers interprets this solo.

The final work on the program is Amy Hollingsworth’s Deeper Than Ink. The title metaphor represents an intense involvement with another person as a tattoo on the soul – only deeper. The simple, yet stunning costumes for all six dancers are long black pants, and sheer very pale tops, the arms and upper section densely mottled in blue-black, creating the illusion of tattoos.

The work is dimly lit and misty, with vignettes of movement at different positions on the stage suddenly illuminated and then plunged into darkness. In complex huddles and groupings, the dancers express aggression, despair, and sometimes consolation. One person is often pulled, resisting, away from another, creating an atmosphere of loss. The music (by Ben Frost, and Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto) ranges from eerie filmic grandeur to dirge-like strings, and metal-inspired dark energy.

In Propel’s three longer works, a wealth of different movement ideas were expressed, demonstrating the success of this choreographic development program in nurturing creativity. Some pruning of repetition and closer focus could fine-tune these works from an audience point of view.

The dancers all shone throughout the whole performance. Athletic, expressive, and each with an individual style, they are inspiring and energising to watch.



Propel (the next step)

Expressions Dance Company & Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

28th February – 2nd March 2013


 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Featuring: Michelle Barnett, Benjamin Chapman, Elise May, Rhiannon McLean, Robert McMillan, Samantha Mitchell & Jack Ziesing


Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Theatre Company have come together for this project, in support of two extraordinarily talented choreographers, Liesel Zink and Lucas Jervies, and the continuing support of contemporary dance in Queensland.



Choreographer: Liesel Zink


EDC's Samantha Mitchell and Jack Ziesing in Liesel Zink's SYNAPSE. Image by FenLan Chuang.

synapse – a junction between two nerve cells, consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass.


To communicate without speaking, to connect without touch, to disconnect with a look…


Liesel Zink explores the concept of social normality, and how we act, react and interact with each other. Zink is a dance artist driven to create change, and through her investigations of the body in space she is doing just that. Zink is a key figure in the changes we see in the Australian contemporary dance scene. With the landscape continually changing, with massive shifts happening across the globe, it’s clear that a great deal of the seismic activity is happening right here on our doorstep, thanks to Zink and her contemporaries.


In the first half of this double bill, Zink explores connections and interactions between people, their energy, and their emotions. There is no sound to start, except for the dancers’ canvas shoes squeaking across the floor (later, a perfectly clunky soundscape by Mike Willmett kicks in). The floor features two white landing strips running across the width of the stage. One of the strips can be broken into irregular chunks and strewn chaotically across the space, eerily resembling a melting, cracking, creaking path across a frozen lake, its shards of white ice danced gingerly upon and around. This gives rise to stunningly effective shaky movement, including variations on utkatasana, hinted at earlier.


EDC's Michelle Barnett and Jack Ziesing in Liesel Zink's SYNAPSE. Image by FenLan Chuang.

This piece is perfectly paced, and beautifully shaped to give us giggles at the outset and a slight holding-of-the-breath effect in its final moments. To start, the company sprints into the space and throughout, we observe individuals breaking free of the constraints of the group, the group sometimes following, sometimes not. It’s a study in the way children play, and less obviously, the way our adult interactions are not so far removed from those we enjoyed – or didn’t – at school. Is the individual stepping outside of the group a leader or a loser?


QTC’s Resident Lighting Designer Ben Hughes brings to this double bill, and to this half particularly, soft side lighting, and bright white specials to highlight relationships; twisting and turning bodies escaping each other’s grasp, sliding down a body, then a chair, to finally rest on the floor in odd, angular, rest-less poses, confronting us with variations on that extreme yoga class you wish you could psyche up to try again, and challenging our notions of the traditional pas de deux. In fact, there is nothing traditional happening here, but instead, a new tradition being established, of intense exploration of pairings and groupings, the body moving on the energy and impulse that has inspired Zink, rather than a set list of emotions informing the body’s gesture and proximity to the partner.


Apples and Eve

Choreographer: Lucas Jervies


In the beginning… The universe created us, and we created God. And it was good? Apples and Eve is a retelling of the greatest story ever told, and the Bible too.


An Affiliate Director with Griffin Theatre Company, and creating works in 2013 for EDC and Queensland Ballet, Lucas Jervies has a distinct brand of humour and he’s not afraid to unleash it upon Brisbane audiences.


EDC's Jack Ziesing and Ensemble in Lucas Jervies' APPLES AND EVE. Image by FenLan Chuang.

You might think that this piece – the second half of the double bill – is a lovely, simple narrative, which pays tribute to the book of Genesis and the Christian story of creation, however; if you were thinking along those lines you would be very wrong. Instead, Apples and Eve exposes themes including misogyny, consumerism, the destruction of the planet, fear and retribution, and urges us to consider the notion of “Eve shaming”, or “What effects on modern day women can we attribute to the misogyny of the Bible”? My six year old doesn’t do Religious Education (I don’t believe there’s a place in our state schools for the teachings of just one denomination), and I gave her a brief, whispered version of the story of Adam and Eve so she wouldn’t be completely lost, but I needn’t have because the story itself, told via a straightforward, playful narrative, was extremely clear.


Using a combination of dance, stylised movement (early on we see lots of caveman choreography, consisting of wonderfully primitive square shapes) and great guttural vocal work, this piece is another exploration, but this time it is of objectification, control, modesty, sexual double standards and extreme violence. The mood stays playful for long enough to make us feel a certain amount of discomfort and dismay as it changes gradually from ecstatic (orgasmic) exclamations of YUM and YES to a series of physical challenges and mini battles. It’s a bit like marriage. The tension builds as each opponent grows weaker and is defeated. There can be only one winner. It’s a bit like a series of marriages…or a series of wrestling bouts…or a series of date rapes. Disturbing. But as confronting as this gets, the dose of humour that comes before and after this scene is decent enough to get us through. If you didn’t want to think too much about the issues being thrown in your face, I guess you might duck and weave a little, and just enjoy the show, but to do so without considering the questions posed would be to miss an extraordinary level of depth to this work.


EDC's Ensemble in Lucas Jervies' APPLES AND EVE. Image by FenLan Chuang.

Multi-talented Designer, Libby McDonnell, has had enormous fun with this production, putting the dancers in sequined booty pants (pink for girls, blue for boys), and God and the Angels in white tutus invoking the spirit of those iconic swans. Mother Earth is resplendent in a gown decorated with red apples – they must number nearly sixty – perfectly offsetting the dozens of red apples that tumble and roll at one point across the stage. I wonder if they are organic? Surely not? Imagine the additional cost of production! At least seven apples are eaten during the show, though none are offered to the audience, as was the trend recently at WTF; I do hope none are wasted!


Dance fans, and our students and teachers of dance must already keep up with EDC. I hope that our actors and directors have had the chance to catch this double bill too (Propel closes tonight!). These pieces, created by Liesel Zink and Lucas Jervies, make such exciting dramatic work and serve as the perfect precursor to upcoming “dance theatre” productions.


I love my six year old’s reviews. Sometimes I wish I were as succinct as she! Poppy said Propel was, “Awesome. The girls were much more stronger than I thought. I liked the chair work, when somebody actually did a handstand on a chair. The entry was good, they all came out running. It was very funny. And I liked the bit when the snake put on the big apple dress but the rest of that one was a bit weird. It was my favourite as in nice costumes. I believe the angels made a special spell to make seven sisters and seven brothers. Then one of the girls fell in love with one of the boys and they had babies, and they had babies, and they had babies…until us! It was still an interesting story.”


ummm…….not saying we’ve watched this recently.





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