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Reviews/Dance/Fringe World Festival

Indie dance in the pink

30 January 2020

Nina Levy relishes the chance to see emerging local artists in two dance works, High Expectations and Speech!.

Review: Samantha Crameri-Miller, High Expectations / Syndicate Performance, Speech! ·
Ivy and Jack, 25 January 2020 / The Stables, 28 January 2020 ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Perth is nationally renowned for the vibrancy of its independent dance scene and one of the many joys of Fringe World is the chance to see works from that sector’s emerging artists. This week afforded two such opportunities: High Expectations, by Samantha Crameri-Miller, and Speech!, by Syndicate Performance.

Paradoxically, I approached High Expectations with few pre-conceived ideas. Choreographer Samantha Crameri-Miller, a 2014 graduate of the WA Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), has been quiet for the past couple of years, and I had only hazy recollections of her most recent work, seen at Sydney Fringe circa 2015-16.

What a welcome surprise, then, to encounter High Expectations, presented in a small, pinkly decorated function room at the back of Ivy and Jack, a small bar in the CBD.

Crameri-Miller created this as a solo piece for local dancer and former classmate Mel Tan. It takes us inside the brain of a young woman as she navigates variously the mundanities of work, a crush on a new colleague, a job interview. With a smart and snappy script that occasionally turns slam-poetic (written and voiced by Crameri-Miller), and a stellar performance by the gloriously expressive Tan, this work is a witty winner.

Tan’s facial expressions are comic enough, but add in her articulate physicality (which way will those limbs go next?) and Crameri-Miller’s wry voiceover, neatly interwoven with a supercool score by young jazz/electronic composer Josh Cusack, and the result is gold.

Three evenings later I find myself in the back room of another CBD small bar, The Stables, at another performance by WAAPA graduates, Speech!. The presenting ensemble, Syndicate Performance, is composed of even younger artists, most of whom graduated from WAAPA’s Link Dance Company honours program in 2018.

Unlike Crameri-Miller, over the past year the members of Syndicate have been very much in evidence on the local indie dance circuit – both as a collective and as individuals – with some promising work presented. Watching Speech!, however, I felt that these dance artists would benefit from a few more years’ life experience.

Directed and choreographed by Ana Music, assisted by Olivia Hendry, and performed by eight dancers, the premise of Speech! is exactly as its title suggests. Structured around speeches that range from a TED talk to an airing of petty grievances between friends, it’s an original concept with plenty of potential.

There are some entertaining moments in this 40-minute exploration. Lilly King’s lip-synched rendition of Liza Minnelli’s “Maybe This Time”, complete with fan kicks and accompanied by comically uninterested back-up dancers, is a highlight. Bridget Flint’s plaintive tale of a morning poo-routine disrupted clearly struck a chord with the opening night audience.

With the dial turned almost exclusively to “silly”, the novelty wears thin, however. Though the dancers are highly skilled and gorgeous to watch, their slapstick hilarity/hysteria rarely feels genuine. I also wished they had taken the time to learn their speeches off by heart – looking down at notes is never going to improve audience engagement.

Speech! seemed firmly aimed at a younger audience – certainly the younger audience members I could see seemed to be loving it. But as Crameri-Miller shows in High Expectations, it is possible for a young person to make a work about youthful concerns that is relatable to people of all ages.

The concept behind Speech! is strong. Perhaps it just needed more time in development before being presented to the paying public.

Speech! is on at the Stables until 30 January 2020.
High Expectations has finished its season at Fringe World.

Pictured top: Mel Tan in High Expectations. Photo: Courtesy of artist.

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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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