Reviews/Contemporary dance/Dance

A lucky dip of dance

20 May 2022

With 12 short new dance works on offer, you’re bound to find something you like at STRUT Dance’s “Short Cuts”, promises Nina Levy.

‘Short Cuts’: Program A and Program B, STRUT Dance ·
Studio 3, King Street Arts Centre, 19 May 2022 ·

It’s “Short Cuts” time again, and maybe you already know the drill?

Each year STRUT Dance gives a dozen or so local independent choreographers 20 hours each in a studio, to develop a new idea. The results are then presented at a studio showing.

By definition, each work or work-in-progress is short – 20 hours yields about 5-10 minutes – making each of the two “Short Cuts” programs pleasantly varied.

Presented in two programs of six works, this year’s offerings are characterised, in the main, by a sense of softness. Perhaps that’s caused by a kind of group fatigue – it’s been a gruelling couple of years for the performing arts sector and, with COVID ripping through Perth, a challenging time to be creating new work – but it made for soothing viewing.

In “Short Cuts” Program A we encounter golden nostalgia for a European past in Minni Karamfiles and Giorgia Schijf’s charming duet, Ignorance is (was) Bliss.

Recent WAAPA graduates Jessica Pettitt and Nadia Priolo follow, with Heighten or Hide, which starts out slow and serious but morphs into a pop driven parody, perhaps of reality-TV/esiteddfod inspired “lyrical” dance? Hard, by Cameron Landsdown-Goodman and Samantha Crameri-Miller, also teeters between humour and something darker with its monstrous armchair that chews and spits out its solo dancer (Landsdown-Goodman). In both these works there’s a kernel of something interesting, not quite germinated but promising.

Sofie Burgoyne describes Flat and down, and down and down, and flat as “an experiment” derived from “smaller parts of a much larger project”. Perhaps that’s what gives her solo the grounded confidence of a more developed work. As she speaks into the darkness, the outline of her moving body is only just discernible. Even when the lights are on she plays at the peripheries, inching along the wall behind the audience, using mirrors to reproduce her own body, and manipulate ours into the picture. It’s all strangely compelling.

The highlight of the two programs, for me, is Jo Omodei’s As the Edges Soften, created and performed with Mitch Spadaro. Capturing the surges and retreats of the accompanying score – “Awe” by Roger Goula – the two dancers are somehow always in sync, even when they’re not. The opening is particularly beautiful; the pair stride from opposite sides of the stage until they meet in a pas de deux connected not by touch but by breath.

Talitha Maslin’s solo In to the Deep (pictured top) makes a sonorous conclusion to a strong program, both aurally and physically. As always, Maslin is wonderful to watch and here we see her carving space, her legs scooping and circling through the air at first slowly and then faster and faster until she folds into a lake of paper. She’s accompanied by Matt Jones who uses electronics to accompany his own Theorbo, so that trickling notes have tinkling overtones and bellowing undertones.

Sarah Chaffey performing in "Short Cuts". She lies on her side, facing away from us, her torso held off the ground and her arms and legs extended behind her. She wears a black fitted top with a window cut out to show her shoulder blades and cream culottes.
Sarah Chaffey gives an athletic performance in ‘Ceci n’est pas une chaise (this is not a chair)’. Photo: Mitch Aldridge

Program A is a hard act to follow and half an hour later, “Short Cuts” Program B doesn’t feel quite as punchy.

Sally Richardson and Jacqui Claus are collaborators from way back and have produced award-winning work. Though their short film The Silence Knew (shot on set during 2020’s “SITU-8” season), is beautifully filmed and edited by Fionn Mulholland, shadowy glimpses of Claus’s deep plies and slicing limbs feel taunting. I’d rather see Richardson and Claus’s rich and rewarding work live.

The rest of the program contains some promising ideas. Brent Rollins’s sentient printer is a winner in For Old Times Sake, but the work feels like too many ideas have been compressed into the allocated time (not a bad problem to have if you’re planning to develop a work further).

Treading a fine line between engagement and satire, Cabaret of Calm, by Helen Duncan, pokes affectionate fun at the wellness industry and a long-haired Scott Galbraith is perfectly cast.

Ceci n’est pas une chaise (this is not a chair), a solo choreographed by Xin Hui Ong in collaboration with performer Sarah Chaffey, makes the most of Chaffey’s athletic stage presence in combination with Azariah Felton’s cinematic score. At times, however, the pairing of music and choreography felt a little overwrought.

Diving into her early teen diary, Tessa Redman’s solo is, in comparison, defiantly and deliberately overwrought. It’s discomforting, presumably intentionally so. Moments of humour, however, act as a salve.

Aimee Sadler’s bodies and beings concludes the evening on a similarly personal, though far more meditative, note. With their limbs wrapped around one another, two dancers move in symmetrical, circling patterns, like a human mandala. It’s also not completely comfortably viewing, however. The combination of the voiceover, softly repeating the words “sticky” and “sweaty”, and mirrors placed so that we can see the audience watching the dancers, makes the work feel faintly voyeuristic.

As always, I connected with some works more than others in these two programs… and that’s the joy of “Short Cuts”. It’s a lucky dip but there’s a prize for everyone in the mix.

“Short Cuts” continues at King Street Arts Centre until 21 May 2022.

Pictured top is Talitha Maslin performing ‘In to the Deep’. Photo: Mitch Aldridge

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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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