Youthful exuberance creates a future from the past

25 October 2018

Review: Annette Carmichael, The Beauty Index & A Light Shade of Red ·
Albany Entertainment Centre, 26 October ·
Review by Maree Dawes ·

A solitary figure stands in front of the stage curtain, letting coins cascade from his fingers into a large silver bowl, as the audience files into the Albany Entertainment Centre to see Annette Carmichael’s new dance work A Light Shade of Red. The second chapter in Carmichael’s Beauty Index trilogy, A Light Shade of Red is premiering in Albany as a double bill, alongside a remount of the trilogy’s first chapter, The Beauty Index. Carmichael is renowned for her community-based dance works; together with James Gentle, she was shortlisted this year for a prestigious Australian Dance Award for 2017’s The Beauty Index.

Created as a response to the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, A Light Shade of Red has more to say about the future than the past. With the help of James Gentle’s soundscape, the youthful exuberance of the dancers (who are mostly local) takes the audience through the span of a generation as it deals with fun, celebration, excesses, greed, conflict, injury, grief and recovery. These changing moods are reflected in the swirl of the women’s dresses and the mismatched, stripes askew, military kit worn by the men.

A dancer is elevated onto a stage above the rest, and the frenzied rapture of the others is palpable and thought-provoking as we see the ease with which everyday people become seduced by a dictator or performer. Also memorable is a duet, performed by Peter Goodbourn and Jessica Rouse, which highlights themes of compassion and recovery.

A memorable duet: Peter Goodbourn and Jessica Rouse, with Sam Reeves background. Photo: Nic Duncan.

There are connections with trilogy’s first chapter, The Beauty Index, with the reappearance of guest professional dancer Scott Elstermann, as well as Kevin Draper’s intriguing painted poles and branches. Here Draper’s poles have been constructed into large moveable shapes and the branches hang by their roots from above. The cast of The Beauty Index join the Light Shade of Red dancers in the final scene, encouraging reflection on themes across both works.

The transportation of The Beauty Index from its original outdoor, industrial setting could have been problematic. Compounded by the cold wind, that initial setting added to the grittiness and heroic nature of the performance. However, that edginess is recreated in the AEC, via sound, scenery and costuming. Kevin Blyth’s lighting of the cyclorama creates an alternative but equally majestic space, evoking a desert landscape or the curve of the earth, across which the dancers and their shadows move.

Carl Heslop continues to impress in this remount of 2017’s ‘The Beauty Index’. Photo: Nic Duncan.

The group’s theatrical moments are also impressive. The dancers create the elements of earth, water, fire and air, with Elstermann embodying air so strongly that, at times, it seems he might ascend. Soloist Carl Heslop continues to impress, as does the whole cast, many of whom are just beginning their journey in dance.

Look out for the third chapter of The Beauty Index trilogy and in the meantime, A Light Shade of Red, the exhibition, can be seen in the Albany Town Hall daily, November 11-24. The works have been created by a team of young people guided by photographer Nic Duncan and filmmaker Robert Castiglione. Sculpture and sound elements from the production are included and segments of the dance will be performed at the opening of the exhibition November 10 at 6pm.

Read Seesaw’s interview with Annette Carmichael (July 2018) here.

Read Seesaw’s interview with Carl Heslop (September 2017) here.

Top: A Light Shade of Red, photo: Nic Duncan.

Scott Elstermann in ‘The Beauty Index’ by Annette Carmichael. Photo: Nic Duncan.

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