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Reviews/Dance

LINK Dance Company delivers a dazzling celebration

28 April 2022

Buoyant and spiritual, LINK’s latest double bill takes to the stage with unrelenting intensity and youthful exuberance, discovers Kim Balfour.

In celebration of the twentieth anniversary of LINK Dance Company, Artistic Director Michael Whaites has given his lucky dancers the opportunity to perform at the State Theatre Centre of WA. Based at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, LINK offers graduate students a transition year between undergraduate training and professional dance.

Billed as a night of “outrageous behaviour and exquisite dancing”, the double bill “In Your God” is comprised of two new works, one by Whaites and one by visiting artist James Welsby, both set to the sounds of talented composer Peter McAvan. The concepts, choreography, dancing and production values of both works are gorgeous, though sometimes undermined by an ever-present ensemble.

A group of dancers in colourful robes. They stand with their backs to the camera, the arms extended to the sky, seemingly joyfully.
Indulging their favourite vices and vanities: the cast of ‘In Your God’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

The titular work, Whaites’s In Your God, opens to an opulent tableau of guests resplendent in colourful robes, channelling Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper. Shards of unearthly light beam down upon the table of guests indulging in their favourite vices and vanities. Whaites asks, “Who do you look up to?” and mirrors, telephones, alcohol and fashion are some of the artefacts, totems and talismans from across the ages the guests choose to worship and fetishise.

As the music builds, the tableau breaks up and each takes on the persona of a fashion model strutting down a catwalk. The fashionistas eventually regroup, remove their robes to reveal simple black unitards, and burst into high-energy ensemble dance sequences.

The ensemble morphs into various shapes and configurations to McAvan’s high-energy beats, consumed with an energy Whaites describes as “the spiritual in the physical”.

Eventually the cast returns to nature, quite literally, as a tree is dragged on stage, while the dancers solemnly create shrines to their totems of worship.

A make and female dancer clad in black and white garments stand back to back, one leg raised like a stork, one hand held to their heads with two fingers extended. Their faces are scrunched in a kind of snarl or sneer.
The dancers have a lot of of fun with James Welsby’s ‘Ultimate Form’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

Melbourne-based artist James Welsby’s contribution to the evening, Ultimate Form, is a light-hearted piece celebrating the journey from “birth to highest self” that gives rise to the divas! Welsby (AKA Valerie Hex) has been a performer, director and choreographer of contemporary dance, drag and cabaret, and we see all these influences emerge in Ultimate Form. Welsby provides some effective visual ideas, gags and choreographic sequences, and the dancers clearly have a lot of fun with the work.

Welsby also provides one of the few moments of contemplative and reflective respite of the evening. In what could have been an off-stage quick change, Welsby instead has his dancers slowly change into an array of white costumes of intriguing design, providing a lovely oasis punctuating the evening’s otherwise feverish pace.

McAvan’s vibrant electronic dance music (EDM) – thumping transcendent music for Whaites’ In Your God and an arrangement of Cerrone’s Supernova for Welsby’s Ultimate Form – is integral to the success of this double bill. This will be no surprise to those who are familiar with his work; a WAAPA graduate, McAvan is very active in the Perth arts and EDM scenes, releasing music as PTMC and co-ordinating the Midnight Elevator label, and he recently produced the EDM score for Symbiosis, performed at this year’s Fringe Festival by Perth dance group TriplOcate DMC.

Aside from a few moments of contemplation, both works are performed at a frenetic pace, usually by the whole ensemble. Democracy of stage time may have been a requirement, but the ensemble simultaneously performing choreography of protracted and unrelenting intensity provides little contrast or pause to become fully immersed in the works.

This criticism aside, the vibrant choreography of both works is danced enthusiastically by a company of dancers who look wonderful, work together well, and take complete ownership of the stage, delivering a dazzling celebration of movement and dance.

“In Your God” continues at the State Theatre Centre of WA until 30 April 2022.

Pictured top: A scene from James Welsby’s ‘Ultimate Form’.

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Author —
Kim Balfour

Kim Balfour is writer and former professional dancer, who has danced with companies such as WA Ballet and Sydney Dance Company. Kim has worked as a freelance writer for over 15 years, including the role of dance writer for The West Australian newspaper. In 2020, Kim was selected as a writer-in-residence at the Centre for Stories, and is currently writing a work of creative nonfiction on gender identity and expression in dance. As a child Kim was sometimes seen sitting on a gently spinning playground carousel, deep in thought, staring at her feet as they dragged along the ground.

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