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Reviews/Dance

Choreographic seedlings

7 August 2020

LINK Dance Company returns to the stage with a program of works-in-progress that reveals both the dancers’ creativity and resilience, writes Nina Levy.

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‘Dancers Who Choreograph’, LINK Dance Company ·
Studio A, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts ·

Like performing artists the world over, the dancers of LINK Dance Company have had to cancel tour plans in 2020. Based at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), LINK Dance Company is part of the dance department’s Honours program. An annual international tour is a highlight of that Honours year.

Instead of performing overseas, the dancers have spent the last four weeks in WAAPA’s studios, exploring choreographic ideas. Described in the program as “the beginnings of new works”, the results are the short contemporary dance works-in-progress that form “Dancers Who Choreograph”, alongside two pieces by the company’s director Michael Whaites. The season is also directed and designed by the young dancers, with mentoring by Whaites and independent dance artist Bernadette Lewis.

First up is Brent Rollins’s Ned, you can go now! Danced by choreographic collaborators Gabrielle de Vriese and Natassija Morrow, and Rollins, this light-hearted work oscillates between life in an office and life as a bush-ranger. Swimming back and forth through time and space, this unlikely juxtaposition shows potential for further exploration.

For those who have seen Nathan Turtur perform previously, his improvised piece How do you know this isn’t all just one elaborate bit? also surprises. Clad in loosely fitting shades of pink, the long-haired, bearded Turtur is unexpectedly androgynous, as he repeatedly and delicately extends a finger into the air. Though the contrast between gentleness and aggression is intriguing, and reveals Turtur’s versatility as a performer, I would have liked a little more from this work to help me understand what drives the score that underpins the movement.

The first of two works by LINK Artistic Director Michael Whaites, Storm is a short exploration of movement and time-lapse photography to the moodily soulful sounds of Sufjan Stevens’ “Visions of Gideon”. There’s a pleasing, cyclonic circularity to this brief encounter, danced with appropriately restless energy by Morrow, Rollins and Turtur.

Ever-ever Land, by Keely Geier in collaboration with her dancers, is a cheery reflection on love and dinosaurs, with a sprinkling of David Attenborough. Danced with gusto by Isabelle Leclezio, Morrow and Rollins, there’s more than a touch of slapstick to this witty little number.

Isabelle Leclezio, Brent Rollins and Natassija Morrow in Keely Geier’s ‘Ever-ever Land’

The mood continues whimsical in Dreams of a Lonely Planet, choreographed and danced by Estelle Brown and Isabelle Leclezio. With a sofa as its centre piece and a stated interest in nostalgia for childhood, this work feels like it references quarantine without being overtly Covid-inspired. Amongst the many strands of this piece we see tantalising glimpses of puppetry and shadow-play, as though there hasn’t yet been time to explore these concepts in detail. Nonetheless, these elements show promise, especially given that all the works on the program are intended as starting points.

Circularity is reprised in the delightful simplicity of Touch, a second work by Michael Whaites, again performed by Morrow, Rollins and Turtur. Set to the melancholic strains of Daniel Norgren’s “As Long As We Last”, the vibe is Trisha Brown meets the Coen Brothers, with three fur-clad characters limping in stoic unison. Morrow, Rollins and Turtur nail the subtle glances and changes in posture that give this work its bittersweet humour.

Rounding off the program, is Natassija Morrow’s Ramalen, a work that explores her Romani heritage through the lens of contemporary dance. Set to a score of folk music from Spain, Russia and Latvia, this work brings the program to a rousing close, blending the stamps, claps and clicks of folk dance with the supple fluidity of contemporary movement. It’s danced with evident enjoyment by the rest of the company.

It’s always a privilege to be invited into the studio to see the beginnings of new work. When one considers that these young artists have lost the opportunity to travel and perform overseas this year, their sense of pleasure in, and commitment to, this season is both impressive and an example to us all.

You can catch Link Dance Company in “Arrival”, 9-11 November, booking info available soon at https://www.waapa.ecu.edu.au/performances-and-events/performances/dance

Nina Levy is a sessional staff member at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.

Pictured top: Brent Rollins and Nathan Turtur in Natassija Morrow’s ‘Ramalen’. Photo: Minni Karamfiles @minnikaramfiles

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked for over a decade as an arts writer and critic. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. Since July 2016 Nina has also been co-editor of Dance Australia magazine. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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