Reviews/Contemporary dance/Dance

Pace, grace and talent in WAAPA dance bill

10 June 2023

WAAPA’s annual mid-year program showcases the talents of the current crop of dance students with a line-up that’s varied enough to ensure everyone will walk away with a favourite, writes Kim Balfour.

Rise, WAAPA second and third year dance students
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, 9 June 2023

Featuring a multitude of complex dance and theatre disciplines, Rise is an eclectic and captivating collection of dance works by local and interstate choreographers, performed by a talented cast of students from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).

WAAPA Classical Ballet Co-ordinator Kim McCarthy’s Sillage is a moody neoclassical work to the score and sound design of Stuart James and Dale Kerrison respectively. The word “sillage” refers to the impression made in space after something or someone has been and gone, or the trail of perfumed fragrance that trails a person. Like vapours pulled by an invisible force through space, the dancers effortlessly lean, tilt, slide and mingle with lingering, haunting grace.

Dancers effortlessly lean, tilt, slide, and mingle with lingering, haunting grace in Kim McCarthy‘s ‘Sillage’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

Jessica Taukiri’s set and costume designs, under Amber Lorenzi’s lighting design, enhance the work’s yearning, moody, solemnity. The atmospheric score is occasionally punctuated with a sound like glass breaking, the dancers freezing in place with each shattering crescendo. Sillage is a sensorial voyage of departure, memory and longing.

WAAPA alumna Isabella Stone’s on a hill of a swelling ocean is a vibrant and colourful celebration of movement, inspired by the natural world and contemporary social drivers. Following a narrative written and performed by Niamh O’Sullivan, the work explores relationships between WA’s Mettams Pool reef, the allure of celebrity, and nudibranchs. Stone’s fascination with colour and movement, coupled with Felicity Groom’s score, is an energetic merging of the extraordinary and the ordinary.

Isabella Stone’s ‘on a hill of a swelling ocean’ is a vibrant and colourful celebration of movement. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

Awash with pink, orange, neon and plenty of sparkles, the playful set and costume designs (Taukiri) and lighting design (Anna O’Day) create a multi-sensory experience that grows more enthralling as the work progresses. The ensemble floor work sections in the latter third are particularly effective.

The program’s third work, The Night Ain’t Filled with Gentle Things, by UK choreographer Sam Coren, is an entertaining often absurdist piece. Performed by the dancers with skill and irreverence, it’s broken into distinctive segments with titles such as I Apocalypse, II Bison and III I Miss You.

Perth-based electronic music producer and composer Louis Frere-Harvey provides an eclectic score, jumping between vapourwave sounds, sombre beats, and whimsical cartoonish audio antics. Anna O’Day’s lighting design and Josh McNeil’s set and utilitarian costume designs complement Coren’s work well, providing rich, well-produced atmospheric visuals.

The dancers deliver many visually striking movement and theatrical moments. One section involves an intense trio of dancers emoting and gesticulating around what appears to be a reference to Duchamp’s Fountain sculpture. The Night Ain’t Filled with Gentle Things is an absorbing and well produced work that provides an entertaining contrast to the other works on the program.

The dancers delivered many visually striking movement and theatrical moments in Sam Coren’s ‘The Night Ain’t Filled with Gentle Things’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

Rafael Bonachela’s 2 One Another – Dark Half is an excerpt of a larger work that delves into the complexity of human experience and interaction. Bonachela, who is artistic director of Sydney Dance Company, created the work in 2012 for his company, and the Dark Half excerpt has been restaged for WAAPA by former SDC dancer Dave Mack.

Sleek, minimalist costumes and lighting, together with Nick Wales’ evocative score, create an emotionally charged experience. Lorenzi’s cascading strip lighting evokes strings of streaming Matrix-like code, complemented by Tony Assness’ sleek futuristic costumes.


Bonachela’s choreography weaves together individuals, couples, and groups of dancers, whose movements exude pulsating rhythms and waves of emotion. The 2 One Another – Dark Half excerpt effortlessly walks between a gritty earthiness and a light ethereality, portraying an essence of intricate relationships, a myriad of emotion, and a world of visually striking metaphoric layers.

The production values, performance quality and theatrical range that comprise Rise are a testament to the talented staff and students of WAAPA. As a mixed bill, Rise has enough pace, grace and originality to keep everyone entertained and exit the theatre with a favourite work.

Rise continues at the Geoff Gibbs Theatre until 15 June 2023.

Pictured top: The ‘2 One Another – Dark Half’ excerpt effortlessly walks between a gritty earthiness and a light ethereality. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

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Author —
Kim Balfour

Kim Balfour is a 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 more than 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 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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