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Reviews/Dance

From silvery clouds to crimson extravagance

11 November 2020

LINK Dance Company’s double bill “Arrival” showcases the versatility of its 2020 cohort, writes Nina Levy.

“Arrival”, Link Dance Company ·
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, 9 November 2020 ·

For the members of LINK Dance Company, November usually means a final season in their home theatre prior to graduation. Part of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), LINK is part of the dance school’s honours programme, and takes on a new cohort of students annually.

This year’s double bill “Arrival”, however, is both the 2020 LINK dancers’ debut and finale at WAAPA’s Geoff Gibbs Theatre.

It feels fitting, then, that the two new contemporary dance works created for this season showcase two very different sets of skills for the seven young dancers, condensing the range that would have normally been seen over several seasons into one.

The first work, neither ever nor never, is by local choreographer Rachel Arianne Ogle, best known for her 2014 work Precipice, which was remounted at the State Theatre Centre of WA last year.

Ogle’s recent works utilise clean and simple choreographic lines and lighting, and neither ever not never continues in this vein, against an ethereal mix of electronic and strings by Iceland-based Australian musician Ben Frost. Unusually for a dance work, however, the star of the show is Ogle’s costume design.

Each dancer’s torso is clothed in a silvery, sheer bubble of fabric, a puffball of sparkling light from which the head and limbs protrude. In shafts of pearly light (by WAAPA student Claire Lansom) the puffballs gather and disperse, cleverly evoking celestial bodies colliding and multiplying in space. Minimal in melodic structure, Frost’s compositions have a complementary sense of both physical and astrological space.

Surging, sweeping waves in Rachel Arianne Ogle’s ‘neither ever not never’. Pictured L-R: Gabrielle De Vriese, Natassia Morrow, Estelle Brown, Brent Rollins, Isabelle Leclezio, Nathan Turtur and Keely Geier. Photo: Stephen Heath

It’s the overall picture that is both the focus and the most effective part of this work; sculptural circles and surging, sweeping waves formed by the group are mesmerising, and make me curious about whether Ogle will explore this idea in future works. The dancers primarily move in service to the whole, a role that each LINKer takes on with grace and maturity.

By contrast, in the second work on the programme, Stained in Crimson, local dance-maker Natalie Allen demands absolute commitment to individuality from the dancers. It’s a challenge they accept with enthusiasm.

Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Masque of the Red Death, about a party in pandemic times, Allen’s work is surreal… with a dash of reality. Disco ball reflections merge with the familiar spiky shape of the coronavirus to form a backdrop to a party that has a dreamlike quality; abstracted and trippy.

The characters of ‘Stained in Crimson’ in their eccentrically decorated hats. Brent Rollins is centre, surrounded by the rest of the cast. Photo: Stephen Heath

It’s not the first time we’ve seen parties feature in work created for LINK; last year’s Chasing-breath by Niv Marinberg had a similar theme. I’m not convinced of the wisdom of using the party as a starting point for a work for young dancers who are (pandemic restrictions aside) at the peak of their own party years. At times if feels as if we’re simply watching young people do what young people do.

Nonetheless, the characters created by the seven dancers with Allen are entertainingly extravagant. They’re gorgeously costumed by Amalia Lambert in “party gear through the ages” – a pair of 60s flares here, an 18th century hooped petticoat frame there – complete with eccentrically decorated hats (one incorporates a tray of champagne glasses, another is a bonnet of puppet-like hands). Against WAAPA student Katie Southwell’s kaleidoscopic lighting, the aforementioned hallucinogenic feeling intensifies.

There’s gyrations and lip-synching aplenty to an intoxicating blend of beats and samples by local composer Pavan Kumar Hari. Occasionally the choreography is almost Fosse-like, slinky and slick, before dissolving into disarray. Though that tendency to chaos is effective in relation to the the work’s aims, I would have liked to see more of those unison moments.

In fact, as “Arrival” ends, I realise I want more in general. It feels too soon to say goodbye to this charismatic cohort. Hopefully we will have more opportunities to see these dancers in action as they make their way beyond the walls of WAAPA.

“Arrival” runs until 11 November 2020. Due to COVID restrictions, attendance is by invitation only.

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

Pictured top: Natalie Allen’s ‘Stained in Crimson. Pictured L-R are Estelle Brown, Brent Rollins, Isabelle Leclezio, Gabrielle De Vriese, Natassia Morrow and Keely Geier. Photo: Stephen Heath

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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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