Archive of ‘Review’ category

Review: The Red Tree

I didn’t really know what I was walking into when I drove the hour and a half down the highway to East Geelong. Nestled in a renovated church, Geelong’s new dance theatre company, Blink Dance Company, was staging their first work with an adaption of Shaun Tan’s The Red Tree.

Storyline’s get the better of me. I love a narrative form, something to sink my teeth into. Whilst I truly value the abstract nature of dance, I think a linear narrative has the potential to connect with a greater audience simply through a wider reference of understanding. Turns out I should have read the book.

redtree2 Tan’s book is a mystical, surreal escapade through the experiences of depression. His stunning illustrations are consuming, detailed, and completely fantastical. There are few words, but what is not written is demonstrated potently through images. It was obvious, artistic director Lyndel Quick loves this book, however the page by page retelling left me somewhat…bereft.

Dance theatre has the ability to move, to bring to life imagery, ideas, physicality, tactility. The performing arts are unparalleled with delivering an actual experience and yet, for the duration of the show, I felt as though I was one step behind the storyteller. Though I understand I was meant to sense the universality of these dark feelings present in everyone, I was really craving just one “character” to connect to, to personalize the viewing experience.

red-tree1 The company relayed some beautiful images; the projections and the props were amazing in creating scenes carving a surreal view of the world. The stage felt larger than life, and I was compelled toward it, but with each blackout I was thrown into a “new page”, jilting my experience before I’d completely digested it.

There is so much potential in this new company. Discovering a unique language between dance and acting for these particular individuals has turned into a cleverly gestural experience. Still, the use of repetition, the drilling image of a city as soul-crushing was just a little transparent. I once heard a theatre director comment that if he understands the work he’s directing, what’s the point of directing it? Audiences enjoy the challenge of interpretation, the feeling of exploration and navigation. Whilst Quick tenderly recreated Tan’s images, I felt there was ultimately a lack of depth in the movement material, perhaps things were explained too well.the red tree

As a story, I was intrigued. As an audience member I had been taken from the darkness through the light, and in the end there was a stunning red tree…but my feelings hadn’t blossomed.

(images taken from shauntan.net and Blink Dance Company)

 

Dates: 3rd – 5th October 2013, 8pm (Sat matinee @ 2pm)

Venue: Shenton Performing Arts Centre, Cnr Garden and Ryrie Streets, East Geelong

Tickets: Geelong Performing Arts Centre

Review: Private Dances II

Private Dances IIimage: Jorge de Araujo

There is a diversity among dance styles that is rarely experienced in a single evening. Variety often exists only with inconsistency, yet I can’t fault the creation of Nat Cursio’s “Private Dances II”: a night filled with 8 dance film works and 11 live creations, incredible and intimate tasters of performers and styles. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, giggling in wrong places, watching collaged works with dancing foxes and clambering into a van for some up-close-and-personal dance action.

Half cocktail party, half performance, the audience mills around, waiting to be led two by two into individual rooms or tents where dancers perform their short works. A different experience develops for each audience member, the chance to debrief in the cloak of half-darkness between pieces adding to the sense of mystery and chance.

It’s an enchanting idea, and over the course of the night I was exposed to Vogueing, Indian dance, African dance, Hip Hop and an array of contemporary works. Each is an intimate encounter; over too soon, it keeps you hunting for more. Intercepted with bite-sized deserts and cocktails in milk bottles (did I shrink six inches drinking that?), the oddness of this work appealed to me greatly, and I felt excited to be able to share the gems of dance with people who have had less exposure to this art form.

This is the second time around for such a night, and my eyes will be peeled for the third. Such experiences come around all too rarely, but jumping down the rabbit hole is well worth your time.

Showing: Aug 28-31; Northcote Town Hall

Curator / Creative Director: Nat Cursio
Set Design: Kat Chan
Lighting Design: Rose Connors Dance
Production Manager: Emily O’Brien
Maitre D: Simon Kingsley Hall
Program Co-ordinator / Curator’s assistant: Ely Elsass
Producer: Lee Cumberlidge,  Insite Arts

Live performances by: Atlanta Eke, Appiah Annan, Efren Pamilacan, Fiona Bryant, Gabrielle Nankivell + Luke Smiles, Hasini Wickramasekera, Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal, James Welsby, Lily Paskas, Soo Yeun You and 2nd Toe Collective.

Film works by: Sue Healey (NSW), Deborah Kelly (NSW), Simon Ellis (UK), Sam Fox (WA), Kristy Ayre + Nick Roux, Eugenia Lim, Alice Dixon + Caroline Meaden and Zoe Scoglio.

Virtuosi

Lisa-Densem_web-260x260

Somehow I’d forgotten how much I loved Melbourne. There was always the glimmer of memory, the sparkle of well-loved times, and yet it wasn’t until I was walking back to the Victorian College of the Arts to see the showcase of Sue Healey’s new film “Virtuosi” that it hit home how good it is to be back.

Being back in my old university stirred some interesting feelings within me, and yet the most potent was the certainty that I had grown in the last four years. I felt different, bigger, ironically sensing that humility has somehow enlarged my sense of self. I was taken aback with this shift in perception; did the film do this to me, or the location? An apt thought perhaps, given Healey’s topic for conversation…

“Virtuosi” is not a film you walk out of feeling diminished. An empowering perspective, “Virtuosi” follows the pathway of eight New Zealand dancers, all of whom have flung themselves far and wide of their homeland. In this context, Healey examines how much where you are defines who you are, and how much of where you came from affects you. Stepping forward and back, side to side, these portraits of dancers are fragmented and yet whole, seeing two sides of these individuals as they talk with such pizazz and dance with honesty.

Moving with startling similarity, it was clear where individuals had come from, stating with absoluteness that where you were born and first trained affects how you move; yet we are, after all, complex beings. Their sophistication of movement had come from their adopted country, the subsequent experience of their everyday lives. In choosing to move, they changed the coating of their self, yet what lies beneath is relatable and familiar to a New Zealand landscape.

I feel it in my own bones. Definitively an Australian mover I now have a coating. The frost and nuance of England has woven its way into my stitches and become a part of how I move. It’s given me opportunity and individuality and in an art form that only really leaves one with the sense of creating your own opportunities, acknowledges the trail of where I’ve been.

If you can see this film, please do. It’s rare a film engages the optimism of art; yet this film manages to in leaps and bounds.

Choreographer/Filmmaker: Sue Healey

Composer: Mike Nock

Director of Photography: Judd Overton

Editors: Lindi Harrison and Sue Healey

Dancers: Mark Baldwin, Craig Bary, Lisa Densem, Raewyn Hill, Sarah-Jayne Howard, Jeremy Nelson, Ross McCormack and Claire O’Neil

Dance Massive 2013

I was lucky enough in leaving England that I landed myself back in Oz for the creative Melbourne dance festival: Dance Massive.

Dance Massive is a biennial festival that began in 2009 and involves collaboration between three dance theatres in Melbourne: Arts House, Dancehouse and Malthouse Theatre.

In 2009, I remember a night deemed “180 seconds in (Disco) Heaven or Hell”, a performance that promised everything from a fortuneteller to a comedian. Red, sparkles and Rubix cubes flash through my memory, performances in flashy costumes that occurred in disparate locations.  It was a night I recall most by it’s engagement with the small but passionate audience that is the foundation of Australian dance in Melbourne, a party of sorts what invited those from every corner of the city.

180seconds

This year’s Massive was equally if not more impressive…. I was only able to see a selection from the last week of performances but the turnout was encouraging: there were many faces I hadn’t seen in years, and those I hadn’t seen at all.

There’s a familiarity to Australian dance – and one that is a little difficult to articulate…almost imperceptible perhaps, unless you are the one experiencing it. I’m curious to know…anyone else know what I’m talking about? It’s an aesthetic: experimental, technical and articulate. I find Australian dancers to perceive things in a less experiential way, their concepts often rigorously calculated and therefore very well verbalised (for the most part), but this causes a change in movement – whether in process or realization (or both?).

But…onto the shows…

Review: Matthew Day’s Intermission

mattday

This work was the third in a trilogy. It may have been to my disadvantage to not have seen his previous two works, but it by no means foreshadowed my experience of this work.

The audience, taken one at a time through a corridor of large black curtains to their seats creates a sense of isolation, unease. The music and the space streamlines the audience’s perception: a cloaking of time and place. Day arrives on stage, covered head to toe in body gripping black, all except for his face, a blank expression that promises nothing.

If you were expecting grand gestures in this work, you’d be disappointed. I came to this piece expecting to be wowed and instead I was fundamentally, almost imperceptibly…shifted. Day begins to shift from foot to foot. A wave begins in his body, hypnotizing. For the next forty-five minutes, not much changes and yet this repetitive gesture never bores. The movement gradually increases and decreases in energy, space and focus. The movement and the music allow space for the audience to think, and yet remain tethered to what’s occurring on stage. This work I could describe as a meditation, and yet I was suspended in a way I rarely succeed when alone.

What’s left is a sensation. A throb, and ebb rather than elation. But creeping through oneself, this sensation is contagious.

Review: Lucy Guerin Inc: Conversation Piece

conversationpiece

I arrived, quite boldly, without a ticket, on opening night. As part of my trial of a come-what-may attitude I was enjoying the freedom of picking and choosing work’s as I could visit them. I didn’t realise how much I wanted to see this piece until I was on the second waiting list, hardly top priority of the night.

But… I made it, and I was once again impressed and excited by the work of Lucy Guerin and dancers.

Conversation Piece: comical, impulsive, and interesting began with an 8 minute conversation between three dancers. This conversation was entirely improvised and recorded on three separate iPhones covering questions of parenting, wasabi-sniffing, and tea drinking. These particular elements of conversation formed the basis to morph and develop the rest of the piece into a larger social commentary that was the backbone of the work.

In Guerin’s last work Untrained, non-dancers were offset against the professionals with movements that accepted the comedic and unifying aspects of dance. In a finely tuned navigation, Guerin was able to tap into movement as a source of enjoyment and embellishment that could have been the instigation for this newest piece treading along similar pathways. Rather than pure movement, conversation was the pivotal point, and shortly after the dancer’s finished their conversation, three actors walked in to take their place, and their conversation, reiteration the situation word for word via playback on individual phones.

The set was minimal, three rows of unassuming orange chairs that were manipulated to create sets mimicking travel, or waiting rooms. Each of the six performers on stage inhabited their own world, playing on their device and in a quirky formulaic way either interacted with one another or through a set of hanging chords broadcast new music to move to toward the audience. There was never a stationary point: conversation was the pivotal flow of understanding, relationships and audience yet verbal communication was not the sole factor. At one point a dancer and her actor (the actor communicating her third of the conversation) entered into a competition: at first movement based, and later a one-sided verbal sparring which was both clever and cutting.

I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time. Themes from these original 8 minutes never grew tiresome, yet flavoured the personalities of the performers and allowed discussion, bonding, challenge and transgression. It’s a work expertly considered and cleverly reenacted.

***

Sadly, there were many shows I was unable to see in this festival, because of time and other commitments my affair with the festival was brief, but not without it’s rewards. It’s beautiful and encouraging to be back amongst talented Australian dancers, I’m beginning to see new names blossom and old morph into something increasingly supportive and helpful.

Review: Resolution! taciturn/The Artful Badger/Ivan Blackstock

BlackstockImage credit: Belinda Lawley

Last night’s programme at Resolution! was overflowing with physical humour. Clever and engaging, these three groups: taciturn, (Zoe Cobb) The Artful Badger, and Ivan Blackstock delivered unique perspectives to the everyday event, infusing and delighting the audience with creative performance.

Taciturn could upstage and deliver some comical lessons to all airline staff: based around health and safety guidelines, this trio demonstrates what to do when your parachute fails, what to do in an earthquake, how to search for a bomb and, finally, how to take a punch. The physical prowess of these three dancers lends itself to what was approaching slapstick comedy, but with enough movement charm to engage with contemporary dance. There were artful transitions between the comedic and the sensitive, the suspended and the rushed; voiceovers, music and vocalization created and carried the scenarios they seamlessly developed. Energetic and engaging, this piece was over far too quickly, though it’s best to go out with a bang. (sorry)

Although not strictly contemporary dance, the second offering of the night performed by another trio: The Artful Badger toyed with the experience of a new bird entering into the world, developing relationships within and around itself. Personalities shaped these dancers as the work progressed, and the physical depiction of this experience, paralleled with the human experience, was touching and often quite comical. Demonstrating curiosity, repetition, camaraderie and even jealousy, these birds bounced and pecked around one another and toward the audience, ruffling their ample feathers in delight and frustration. Though the soundscape was minimal, this work contained a delicate nuance that was emotionally warming.

In the final work for the evening, Ivan Blackstock examined the humourous possibilities of things that go bump in the night. Disturbed by the sleeping habits of the woman next to him, his frustration built into a scene reminiscent of Bedknobs and Broomsticks – nightclothes, jeans and hoodies bounding around the stage with personality and cunning. This extended scene, entertaining in itself, was somewhat two-dimensional, though the antics were clearly humanising, and the empathy of the situation was engaging and enriching for the audience. The movement vocabulary was set to impress, these obviously talented dancers performing complex movement phrases with impressive ease. Blackstock is clearly a choreographer who likes to entertain, and with his band of black-unitard-cum-clothing helpers, he certainly succeeded, his exit littered with numerous bouts of applause.

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