Reviews/Contemporary dance/Dance

WAAPA dancers find finesse and flair

11 June 2022

WAAPA dance students do justice to classic and contemporary works in their midyear performance season, writes Rita Clarke.

“Rise”, WAAPA 2nd and 3rd year dance students ·
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, Edith Cowan University, 10 June 2022 ·

“Rise”, the WA Academy of Performing Arts dance faculty’s midyear performance season, opens with “Tout de Suite”, a reworking of excerpts from famous classical ballets CoppeliaSwan Lake and Don Quixote

The clever interweaving of these sections in the hands of visiting guest teacher Leanne Stojmenov who, as principal dancer in the Australian Ballet, has no doubt danced many of these roles herself, and WAAPA classical dance coordinator Kim McCarthy, allows the students to present the audience with a sparkling expression of confidence, physical agility and finesse. 

The dancers gather in a pastoral festival scene, dressed in colourful bodices and soft flared skirts, garlanded with flowers and awash in soft summery lighting. En pointe and eloquently light-footed, they do justice to these time-honoured sequences. 

A pastoral festival scene: A moment from ‘Tout De Suite’. Photo: Stephen Heath

The two male performers, Daniel Powell and Lincoln Conroy, handle the male solo virtuoso ballet steps with aplomb, but both seem less confident supporting their female partners. In fact, a few appreciative glances at each other wouldn’t go amiss. Powell, however, has that insolent, Nureyevesque stare, which he projects one time over the footlights. He should use it more often. 

In general, the performers show a flair and competence beyond that of which you would expect of students at this stage of their study. Their pleasure and beaming smiles are contagious. 

Nadia Alexander (violin), Caitlin Malcolm (flute) and Gennaro Di Donna (piano) addd manna to “Tout de Suite” by playing the music of Pyotor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Ludwig Minkus and Leo Delibes in such a fluent and mellifluous manner, I could have listened just to them for the evening. 

Caught in a web: A scene from Jenni Large’s ‘Flesh Net’. Photo: Stephen Heath

The two contemporary works which follow, devised by WAAPA dance alumni Jenni Large and Laura Boynes, both open with dancers’ bodies totally encompassed by material – mesh in the case of Large’s Flesh Net, and parachute silk in Boynes’ Mammoth.

Flesh Net’s opening moments, with dancers trying to extricate themselves, sets up well Large’s concept of humankind caught in a constricting web of its own making. The accompanying sound design, composed by Azariah Fellon, is suitably bleak and ominous. Dancers cross the stage alone or carrying others, sensuously undulating their bodies or rolling along the floor, rarely glancing at the audience until towards the end when they come together and stare outwards. 

Large’s movement vocabulary is intriguing, and the dancers perform it well. However, the rather dry, dimly lit, detached sequences (which presumably she uses to show our aloneness) do not translate into a compelling enough narrative.

In Boynes’ Mammoth, dancers also seek some enlightenment. Boynes suggests it is a search for the sublime which she references visually through posed tableaux imitating famous artistic works and through Felicity Groom’s soaring sound design containing a choir of soprano voices seemingly giving praise to a supreme deity. 

Neo-classical paintings such as Nicolas Poussin’s richly coloured The Rape of the Sabine Women are brought to mind. 

The 16 dancers are a visual coup d’état, uniformly dressed in bright red trousers and tops, and they grow in stature before our eyes, catching the flood tide of Boynes’ dramatic choreographic drive, which might find them atop a plinth of rolled up rubber carpet appealing to the gods above, or treading the rolled out carpet towards some awe-inspiring culmination. 

There are some enthralling visual effects, such as cascading silk sheets which float and catch the dancers, who themselves are riveting. These facets, combined with a clear narrative drive, create a stunning performance. 

“Rise” continues until 16 June 2022

Pictured top: The drama of Laura Boynes’ choreography in ‘Mammoth’. Photo by Stephen Heath

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Author —
Rita Clarke

Whilst studying arts at UWA Rita found herself working at Radio 6UVSfm presenting the breakfast and Arts shows, and writing and producing various programs for ABC’s Radio National. A wordsmith at heart she also began writing features and reviews on theatre, film and dance for The Australian, The Financial Review, The West Australian, Scooby and other magazines. Tennis keeps her fit, and her family keeps her happy, as does writing now for Seesaw.

Past Articles

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