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Reviews/Dance/Fringe World Festival

Sensual and zesty

18 January 2021

Citrus-scented dance work Lemon feels more like an installation than a conventional performance piece, writes Nina Levy.

Lemon, Amelia Sagrabb ·
Westminster House, 16 January 2021 ·

It’s not often that our sense of smell is called into play at a dance performance.

Entering the cave-like darkness of the small performance space at the top of Westminster House, however, a heady citrus scent – clean and refreshing – provides an aromatic start to Lemon, a show by local emerging choreographer Amelia Sagrabb that aims to explore women’s sensuality “through contemporary dance and fruit”.

The source of the scent is a cluster of four dancers who are diligently squeezing, sucking, peeling, carving and playing with lemons. The tableau segues almost seamlessly into the start of the show.

Against a soundscape of ambient electronica that has an amphibian quality, the feeling is otherworldly as one of the dancers (Elsa Bignell) detaches from the group to perform a solo of intricate wiggles and shivers.

Montserras Heras winds across Giorgia Schijf, Amelia Sagrabb, Lara Dorling and Elsa Bignell in ‘Lemon’.

The sense of inhabiting some kind of strange semi-aquatic world (are we … inside … a lemon?) continues as the five dancers that comprise the cast dive and undulate through a series of solos, duos, trios and ensemble sections. A favourite moment sees one dancer (Lara Dorling) scrunch her features into a “lemon face”, the spirit of which infiltrates her body into a wincing solo that then infects the other dancers.

At other times, organic duets and trios seem improvised. Though these sections provide contrast, they’re not as effective as the parts that are clearly and cleanly rehearsed – particularly notable is a synchronised lunging phrase, performed as a trio, that manages to create the sense of travelling, in spite of the tiny stage space.

In fact, the work feels more suited to being an installation than a conventional performance piece, in that there isn’t a strong sense of an arc through the work, be it narrative or abstract. Rather it feels like an ongoing exploration of a series of movement ideas, based on the sensuality of lemons and women.

It seems Amelia Sagrabb realises this: on the stairway up to the performance space there are many signs inviting the audience to move around during the show. But the way the space is set up discourages audience movement. It’s dark, with minimal space between the cushions and chairs facing the stage area. Once one is seated, moving around doesn’t feel safe.

As promised, Lemon is evocative and sensual, beautifully performed by the cast of five. I’d be interested to see what might be done with the concept in a space better suited to installation work.

Pictured top: Lara Dorling, Giorgia Schijf, Montserrat Heras and Elsa Bignell play with lemons at the beginning of the show. Photos: Yuval Gurfinkel

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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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