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Reviews/Dance

Local superhero

29 August 2019

Review: Laura Boynes, Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long, ‘Wonder Woman’ ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, 28 August ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

The entrance for “Wonder Woman” is door 2 of the Heath Ledger Theatre but instead of heading into the auditorium we are ushered backstage, into a space it takes me a moment to recognise as the theatre stage. It’s a fitting start to a show that gently subverts our expectations of what a “wonder woman” might be.

A program of two solo works, the seeds for “Wonder Woman” were sown when local dance artist Laura Boynes commissioned Sydney-based choreographers Julie-Anne Long and Adelina Larsson to each create a solo for her, based on the catalyst: “Supposing feminism was a superhero…”

Though Boynes explains in her program notes that she chose the two choreographers for their thematic similarities (amongst other things), their resulting solos are vastly different in style and dynamic. The lynch pin is the charismatic and versatile Boynes.

Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick.
Arms outstretched: Laura Boynes in Adelina Larsson’s ‘Rite II: Solo”. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Long’s work, To Be Honest: a girl’s own collection of unconfirmed tales, is a gorgeous mash-up of fact and fiction, movement and story-telling, ballet and life. Long has capitalised on Boynes’ off-beat sense of humour and her hand-flapping entry, clad an out-sized dressing gown-cum-doona and accompanied by the “Aurora Variation” from Coppelia, sets the tone for the work.

What follows is a series of anecdotes about growing up, about being a dancer, about mothers, about not (yet?) being a mother, about saying “fuck you” (or not)… interwoven with more extracts from Coppelia and Boynes’ loose-limbed, joyous interpretation of that music. There are many layers; of costume (stylishly designed by Bruce McKinven) and of stories. Some bits ring true, and some bits are tongue-in-cheek… but can we be sure which is which? Long’s superhero finds her strength in the multiplicity of the tales she tells, and in keeping us guessing.

Laura Boynes performing Wonder Woman
A visceral work: Laura Boynes in Adelina Larsson’s ‘Rite II: Solo’. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

In stark contrast, Adelina Larsson’s Rite II: Solo is a visceral work, abstract and introverted. Composed by Shoeb Ahmad (who mixes and loops pre-recorded samples live), the vocal score is wordless; a ghostly melange of sharp sips of air, of calls and keens, of sobs. Though we hear Boynes talk about being a dancer in Long’s work, it’s here that we experience the intensity of what that means.

In a twilight world (designed by Chris Donnelly) we see Boynes caress her own limbs, as though washing them clean. Twitches and shudders punctuate movement that is otherwise fluid, rolling and rippling through space. With her hands clasped behind her head, or thrust in her pockets, her hips lead the way. Arms outstretched she claps; the sound cracks and reverberates. The female super-power in Larsson’s solo is found in everything that is non-verbal.

Boynes is a compelling performer and the emotional range that she demonstrates in this program is impressive. Though it’s not her intention, she is the Wonder Woman of the title. Make sure you see her in action.

‘Wonder Woman’ runs until August 31.

Read a Q&A with Laura Boynes here.

Pictured top is Laura Boynes in “To Be Honest: a girl’s own collection of unconfirmed takes”, by Julie-Anne Long. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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