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Reviews/Dance/Fringe World Festival

Head-banging synchrony

28 July 2021

Combining the wildness of the mosh pit with the athleticism of contemporary dance, Cry Baby, which made its debut at Fringe World, has been developed into a full length work to be presented at the Rechabite. Ahead of that season we’re sharing Nina Levy’s review of the original.

Cry Baby, Parkin Projects ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, 16 January, 2021 ·

Like any rock ’n’ roll show worth its salt, Cry Baby opens with a blast of drum-driven, guitar-infused, scream-laden sound.

It’s contemporary dance, but not as we know it, as three women in boiler-suits – Celina Hage, Rhiana Katz and Georgia van Gils – strut their stuff, accompanied by Cissi Tsang on electric guitar and Nathan Menage on drums. Created and directed by emerging local independent choreographer Kimberley Parkin, Cry Baby is both a celebration and an affectionate parody of rock stars like Mick Jagger, Janis Joplin, Iggy Pop and Tina Turner.

If you’ve seen Hage, Katz and Gils perform (you may recall that all three appeared in another rock-inspired program, Hofesh in the Yard), you’ll know that each is a powerhouse dancer who crackles with energy on stage. Here the looseness of the mosh-pit meets the articulation of their training, with electric results. Bodies writhe, hair flies, hips vibrate, creating a wild and electric synchrony.

Tsang and Menage respond in kind, revelling in the physicality of the dancers and creating an impressively loud and full sound as they work their way through a medley of rock favourites.

Rhiana Katz delivers a sultry version of the Rolling Stones standard, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’. Photo: Edwin Sitt

There’s a feminist undercurrent, too, in the masculinity of the dancers’ swagger, androgynous in their boiler suits, as well as in the gender imbalance on stage.

An unexpected highlight is Katz’s sultry rendition of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. Despite being untrained, she sings with gritty confidence, bravely eyeballing a few individual audience members as she delivers her lines.

Though it’s understandable and, indeed, desirable that there should be some variation in energy level and tone, the change of mood that concludes the work feels anti-climactic. Hage’s staggering solo to the song of the title, which seems to be alluding to the dark side of the genre, is effective but leaves the audience somewhat subdued. The fact that the live band has left the stage exacerbates the feeling that the show that started with a bang has ended with a whimper.

Nonetheless, Cry Baby is a 35-minute head-banging, pelvis-thrusting, tongue-baring treat. Get a ticket for the last show, if you can.

The full-length version of Cry Baby (approx. 50 minutes) plays The Rechabite, 4-6 August 2021.

Pictured top: Powerhouse dancers Georgia van Gils, Celina Hage and Rhiana Katz and strut their stuff in ‘Cry Baby’. Photo: Edwin Sitt

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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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