Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht in Giselle (2019) (2). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Sparkling duo leads the way

Review: West Australian Ballet, Giselle ·
His Majesty’s Theatre, 14 September ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

When it comes to ballet, Giselle is my guilty pleasure.

First performed in 1841, the ballet’s plot is not one you’ll find in “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls”. In a pre-industrial German village, peasant girl Giselle has fallen for Albrecht. He’s actually a duke, but in order to win Giselle, he has disguised himself as a villager. Oh yeah, and he’s also engaged to someone else. When Giselle discovers that she has been two-timed by her so-called fiancé, she “loses her reason” and dies of a broken heart.

And so to Act II, in which Giselle has become one of the Wilis, the ghosts of women who have been betrayed by their lovers. When the vengeful Wilis encounter Albrecht they try to dance him to death – because powerful women must, of course, be evil. But Giselle’s love protects Albrecht until dawn, when the Wilis must return to wherever it is they go during daylight hours.

Of course, this story is risible when read from a feminist perspective but I confess I agree with West Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director Aurélien Scannella when he describes the ballet as “one of the most beautiful Romantic ballets of all time.” The contrast between the sweet innocence of Act I and the chilling spectre that is Act II, with the famous “mad scene” at its temporal and emotional centre, never fails to entice me.

Following in the footsteps of Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot (to whom the 1841 choreography is attributed), WAB’s 2019 season does not disappoint.

Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht in Giselle (2019) (3). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
A sparkling chemistry: Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

On Saturday night, Alexa Tuzil, as Giselle, and Juan Carlos Osma, as Albrecht, won the audience over from the outset. With her large eyes and beguiling expression, Tuzil’s Giselle seems heart-breakingly young and innocent in Act I. Osma’s Albrecht approaches Giselle with the awkward enthusiasm of adolescence. His interpretation humanises Albrecht’s deception – he’s not cruel, just young, impulsive… and making a huge mistake. The pair have a sparkling chemistry and technically they’re lovely to watch, whetting our appetite for what’s to come.

Concluding Act I, Giselle’s “mad scene” is renowned as a test of the mettle of any dancer playing the lead role, and Tuzil passes it with aplomb as she oscillates between teary recollection and wild-eyed disbelief.

Keigo Muto and Mayume Noguromi dancing the Peasant Pas de Deux in Giselle (2019). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
Keigo Muto and Mayume Noguromi dancing the Peasant Pas de Deux. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

Also noteworthy in this act were Candice Adea and Julio Blanes, whose deftly performed Peasant Pas de Deux drew appreciative murmurs in the dress circle on Saturday, in spite of almost being upstaged by a couple of delightful dogs. As the love-lorn Hilarion, Christian Luck kept us wavering between pity and scorn. And the corps de ballet performed with exuberance, the womens’ crisp entrechat series and the men’s exciting tours en lair two highlights.

Though this production is not new to Perth – it was first performed in 2014 – I was struck anew by the almost subterranean gloom of the forest as the curtain rose on Act II. Lit by Jon Buswell, Peter Cazalet’s forest is framed by ragged leaves, its floor awash with mist; otherworldly and gorgeously dark.

Glenda Garcia Gomez as Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis in Giselle (2019) (3). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
Glenda Garcia Gomez dances Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis with steely technique. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.
Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht in Giselle (2019). Photo by Sergey Pevnev
An assured partner: Juan Carlos Osma lifting Alexa Tuzil. Photo by Sergey Pevnev.

Here we encounter the Wilis. Again, the dancers of the corps are to be commended; wild yet strangely formal, they’re a maelstrom of ghostly white. As Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, Glenda Garcia Gomez didn’t quite reach the ice-queen heights of some renditions I’ve seen, but she was appropriately stern with steely technique to match. Lead wilis Mayume Noguromi and Dayana Hardy Acuña followed suit, topped with port de bras so airy it teetered on insouciance.

But the act belonged to Tuzil and Osma. Her sublime developpes, promenades and penches were deftly supported by him, at times with just one hand. Osma may play Albrecht as a youngster but he is a mature and assured partner. Meanwhile Tuzil, still a member of the corps de ballet, gave a performance that belied her youth, emotionally charged and technically assured. Both individually and as a pair, the two are outstanding in their roles.

The season is expertly accompanied by West Australian Symphony Orchestra who capture the piquancy and poignancy of Adolphe Adam’s score under the baton of Jessica Gethin. Though probably unintentional, the introduction of the charismatic Gethin – a passionate advocate for addressing the gender imbalance amongst classical music leaders – as a WAB collaborator offset my feminist concerns somewhat.

Choreographers Aurelien Scannella and Sandy Delasalle are to be congratulated on this production. Whether you’re a Giselle aficionado or a newbie to this ballet, WAB’s latest offering is well worth the ticket price.

Giselle runs until September 28.

Pictured top: Alexa Tuzil as Giselle and Juan Carlos Osma as Albrecht, in Act II. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

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Dancers in blue light amongst pillars
Calendar, Dance, November 19, Performing arts

Fremantle Biennale: Dance: RADAR

21 – 24 November @ B-Shed, Fremantle Ports ·
Presented by Brooke Leeder and Dancers ·

‘RADAR’ is a new contemporary dance work by Brooke Leeder & Dancers, in collaboration with Louis Frere-Harvey and Nemo Gandossini-Poirier. Sirens and sounds are codes that trigger human movement – a universal, unspoken, sonic form of communication and direction into action. Alarms can also signal stillness; simultaneously meaning different things to different people. Timecoding live instruments, electronic tracks and lighting design, ‘RADAR’ will merge dancers, light and sound to create a unified body of work, with a small ensemble of musicians behind a large ensemble of dancers. The composition will act as a web of support, holding in silence and in response, launching the bodies into the space, as the lights change in precision along a time coded score. ‘RADAR’ creates surges of action or caution, movements of urgency and pause, the whole ensemble intently alert in either silence and siren.

More info

Structural Dependency (2019), Matthew Thorley; Installation view PS Art Space. Credit: Noah Beck



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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Dancing in the dark

Review: Link Dance Company, In the Dark ·
PS Art Space, 4 September ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

What are you afraid of? I remember, as a kid, a recurring nightmare involving a Sesame Street skit about a camel that materialises out of cracks in a wall. Fear is acutely personal terrain – what freaks one person out, makes another laugh. These various hobgoblins form the content of the latest production from WAAPA’s Link Dance Company, aptly titled In the Dark.

Director and choreographer Michael Whaites has chosen the perfect venue for this exploration of our personal bugbears. The PS Art Space (the PS is for Pakenham Street) is a gem of Freo’s West End. With its giant double wooden doors fronting the historic facade, polished concrete floors and pillars, it’s a starkly evocative place. Upstairs, there are countless nooks and crannies to explore, accessed via some wonderfully creaky wooden stairs. The place has a distinctly creepy vibe at night and Whaites makes inventive use of the space, aided by the talented Joe Lui as lighting and sound designer.

The first half of the performance is set downstairs. Eight dancers thread, glide and writhe around the concrete pillars. Smoke wafts over the audience, seated in suitably uncomfortable wooden chairs. There’s no obvious narrative here, we’re presented with fear in many forms with allusions to fairytales, phobias and childhood anxieties. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, ominous, intense. This pressured feeling is spoiled slightly by a series of addresses from the dancers, microphone in hand. Asking dancers to become actors is always risky and here, despite their eagerness, the performers falter and the words fall flat.

Better then, to focus on the physical prowess on display. Dancers sprint around the edges of the space in an attempt to escape. There may be wolves, there is certainly the risk of violence, but just as things teeter into wildness – a reprieve. A small band of pipers enters through the double doors, blasting their bagpipes as the dancers quieten. It’s a bit out of place (I don’t know about you, but I associate bagpipes with stirring nostalgia – and I’m not even Scottish!) but the audience seems glad of the change in tone.

The fear re-asserts itself with the exit of the pipers and the audience is split up and led upstairs. While the performance downstairs seemed disjointed and dreamlike, upstairs is another matter. Backlit with shadows, the dancers perform solos in various corners of the dark room, the audience wandering freely between scenes. The wolf is back, in the lupine form of Thomas Mullane and there’s a wonderfully menacing duet which he performs with Bethany Reece, another standout performer.

Then, all goes dark. There’s something fabulous about being in the dark with strangers. All light is extinguished and we are left, wonderfully spooked, waiting for the next piece of action.

Like any canny director, Whaites leaves the best ‘til last. Having mainly showcased the individual talents of his group, he now brings them together in an ensemble sequence that is the clear highlight of the evening. Ensemble work is tremendously difficult to pull off, and risky because of this, but when it works there’s little better in dance. Intricate footwork, deft rhythmic moves… the dancers’ exhilaration is gorgeously infectious. Moving as a whole, the dancers stomp and swoop, conquering their fears together. We file out into the cold night, spent.

In the Dark runs until September 7.

Photo: A still from footage by Emma Fishwick.

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Aboriginal painting
Calendar, Dance, February 2020, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Perth Festival: Buŋgul

8 & 9 February @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by Perth Festival and Skinnyfish Music ·

Gurrumul’s Mother’s Buŋgul
Gurrumul’s Grandmother’s Buŋgul
Gurrumul’s Manikay

‘Yolngu don’t have books or computers. They carry it here (in the heart) in their song, their dance, their paintings.’ Don Wininba Ganambarr

A buŋgul is a ceremony, a meeting place of dance, song and ritual. Created on country in North East Arnhem Land with the Yunupiŋu family, Buŋgul is a ceremonial celebration of one of the transcendent albums of our time. You’re invited to experience the traditional songs, dances and paintings that inspired Gurrumul’s final album, Djarrimirri (Child of the Rainbow), in a live performance by Yolŋu dancers, songmen and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra directed by Senior Yolngu Don Wininba Ganambarr and Nigel Jamieson.

This project was initiated by the Yunupiŋu family and Skinnyfish Music. Produced by Perth Festival and Skinnyfish Music.

More info

Pictured: Baru painting by Priscilla Barrapami Yunupiŋu

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Local superhero

Review: Laura Boynes, Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long, ‘Wonder Woman’ ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, 28 August ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

The entrance for “Wonder Woman” is door 2 of the Heath Ledger Theatre but instead of heading into the auditorium we are ushered backstage, into a space it takes me a moment to recognise as the theatre stage. It’s a fitting start to a show that gently subverts our expectations of what a “wonder woman” might be.

A program of two solo works, the seeds for “Wonder Woman” were sown when local dance artist Laura Boynes commissioned Sydney-based choreographers Julie-Anne Long and Adelina Larsson to each create a solo for her, based on the catalyst: “Supposing feminism was a superhero…”

Though Boynes explains in her program notes that she chose the two choreographers for their thematic similarities (amongst other things), their resulting solos are vastly different in style and dynamic. The lynch pin is the charismatic and versatile Boynes.

Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick.
Arms outstretched: Laura Boynes in Adelina Larsson’s ‘Rite II: Solo”. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Long’s work, To Be Honest: a girl’s own collection of unconfirmed tales, is a gorgeous mash-up of fact and fiction, movement and story-telling, ballet and life. Long has capitalised on Boynes’ off-beat sense of humour and her hand-flapping entry, clad an out-sized dressing gown-cum-doona and accompanied by the “Aurora Variation” from Coppelia, sets the tone for the work.

What follows is a series of anecdotes about growing up, about being a dancer, about mothers, about not (yet?) being a mother, about saying “fuck you” (or not)… interwoven with more extracts from Coppelia and Boynes’ loose-limbed, joyous interpretation of that music. There are many layers; of costume (stylishly designed by Bruce McKinven) and of stories. Some bits ring true, and some bits are tongue-in-cheek… but can we be sure which is which? Long’s superhero finds her strength in the multiplicity of the tales she tells, and in keeping us guessing.

Laura Boynes performing Wonder Woman
A visceral work: Laura Boynes in Adelina Larsson’s ‘Rite II: Solo’. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

In stark contrast, Adelina Larsson’s Rite II: Solo is a visceral work, abstract and introverted. Composed by Shoeb Ahmad (who mixes and loops pre-recorded samples live), the vocal score is wordless; a ghostly melange of sharp sips of air, of calls and keens, of sobs. Though we hear Boynes talk about being a dancer in Long’s work, it’s here that we experience the intensity of what that means.

In a twilight world (designed by Chris Donnelly) we see Boynes caress her own limbs, as though washing them clean. Twitches and shudders punctuate movement that is otherwise fluid, rolling and rippling through space. With her hands clasped behind her head, or thrust in her pockets, her hips lead the way. Arms outstretched she claps; the sound cracks and reverberates. The female super-power in Larsson’s solo is found in everything that is non-verbal.

Boynes is a compelling performer and the emotional range that she demonstrates in this program is impressive. Though it’s not her intention, she is the Wonder Woman of the title. Make sure you see her in action.

‘Wonder Woman’ runs until August 31.

Read a Q&A with Laura Boynes here.

Pictured top is Laura Boynes in “To Be Honest: a girl’s own collection of unconfirmed takes”, by Julie-Anne Long. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

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WAAPA dance students in Unleash
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A showcase of diversity and versatility

Review: WAAPA 3rd year choreography students, ‘Unleash’ ·
Dolphin Theatre, 27 August ·
Review by Lauren Catellani ·

Presented annually, “Unleash” is an eclectic program of dance works choreographed by third year dance students from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). The short self-devised pieces are created in collaboration with composition students and production and design students. Performed by second and third year dance students in the intimate Dolphin Theatre, the program allows audiences to catch a glimpse of the artistic flair and interests of the young dance-makers. This year’s program of 10 works showcases a diverse array of concepts and choreographic styles.

Trajectory, by Meg Scheffers, opens the show with a captivating organisation of bodies, harnessing and building on pedestrian movement to produce a sustained energy and texture amongst the dancers.

A striking design drew me into the trance that is Estelle Brown’s …The Aperture. In costumes that appear red wine soaked, the dancers move softly yet playfully under an installation of wine glasses hanging upside down. The peaceful drunken haze that lasts the entirety of the work is pleasantly intriguing.

Choreographed by Keely Geier, Let’s get mild  is a collection of nonsensical happenings with inspiration from the surrealist art movement. The work is intentionally abrupt, with dancers thrown into the space and new sections unfolding out of nowhere. With a clearly expressed concept, this work shows potential for further development – I’d be interested to see the elements of absurdity explored in more depth.

Dance students in Unleash
‘Let’s Get Mild’ by Keely Geier. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

In Fundamental Complexities Natassija Morrow takes on the complex notion of how we connect who we think we are with the reality of who we are. Dressed in tasselled costumes, the dancers resemble car wash brushes as they vigorously shake, spin and toss their limbs in space, creating a blurry mess of bodies.

Marnie Fiebig’s light-hearted work Dress Relief delves into the deeper significance of the clothes we choose to wear. Dancers dressed in nude-coloured costumes sort and weave their way through piles of red clothing. The work ends with a particularly interesting image, in which the dancers became clotheslines, holding up strings of intertwined clothes and pulling bodies through the space.

Broken Angels is Thalia Munyard’s neo-classical reimagining of Act II of the Romantic ballet Giselle. The dancers performed with composure and strength, while the choreography seamlessly incorporated gestural movement and floor work into classical vocabulary.

Choreographed by Nathan Turtur [Insert A Generic Contemporary Title Here] is more open to audience interpretation than other works on the program. The dancers are dressed in futuristic blue outfits, with matching blue boxes at the front of the space. They fixate on the boxes performing encircling robotic gestures which are repeated and then expanded into the space.

‘Broken Angels’ by Thalia Munyard. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

For the Sake of Knowing, by Brent Rollins, seeks to explore how we acquire knowledge, primarily using repetition, rhythmic clapping of hands on thighs and the percussive score by Elliot Creeper to drive this intention.

A highlight of the program, Macon Riley’s So, What was your Answer is a soft, meditative offering inspiring contemplation throughout. Riley incorporates text amongst the movement effectively. The score, by Joshua Jervis, adds compelling layers to this beautifully considered work.

Cassie Tattersall’s retro, pixellated video game fantasy work Level Up is an unexpected but welcome ending to the evening. Though a little monotone in style, the highly animated, video game inspired movement language, remains engaging due to the clever construction and re-creation of familiar images.

2019’s “Unleash” is a highly satisfying program of new dance works and an encouraging display of the versatility and capability of these up-and-coming artists.

“Unleash” runs until August 31.

Pictured top is ‘For the Sake of Knowing’ by Brent Rollins. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

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Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick
Dance, Features, News, Performing arts

An everyday super (s)hero

“Imagine if feminism was a super hero.”

That’s what local dance artist Laura Boynes is asking of audiences this month, when she presents and performs Wonder Woman, a double bill of solo dance works.

It’s the recent groundswell of support for women’s rights – in the form of international and national women’s marches, as well as the #metoo and Time’s Up campaigns – that initially moved Boynes to commission NSW-based choreographers Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long to create the solos.

In this Q&A with Nina Levy, Laura spills the beans about making Wonder Woman.

‘What does an everyday superhero looks like?’ asks Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Nina Levy: Why did you choose to name your show for Wonder Woman?
Laura Boynes: Wonder Woman seemed like a fitting title as one of the first provocations I commissioned the choreographers with was “imagine if feminism was a superhero” and whether people believe Wonder Woman is a feminist icon or failure she remains a feminist symbol 75 years after her creation. Whilst I am not portraying Wonder Woman the character, the work speaks to the idea that potentially there is a “Shero” within all women. What does an everyday superhero look like?

NL: There’s no questioning the timeliness and relevance of this work… but what inspired you to commission the two solos that comprise Wonder Woman?
LB: Firstly, I attended a symposium in 2016 Fremantle titled “we are not dead yet” which spoke about gender and age dynamics within contemporary arts practice and in particular invisibility of the older female artist. It was an incredibly inspiring lecture series and sparked a passion in me to respond to some of these themes by creating a new work. Secondly, a personal need to push my own practice as a performer by working with two artists I hadn’t previously worked with in a new format and the urge to take on the challenge of a full length solo work.

NL: Originally you were motivated by campaigns such as #metoo and Time’s Up. How has Wonder Woman evolved from this starting point?
LB: There is no doubt that #metoo and Time’s Up were the catalyst for Wonder Woman. While the issues are still relevant, a few years have passed since these political movements. The works we have ended up creating don’t deal directly with these events and thankfully I don’t have a personal #metoo story to uncover, however there is an undertone in what has become a semi-autobiographical and empowering work.

Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick.
‘Movement can say a multitude of things that words cannot.’ – Laura Boynes at Dance Massive’s Open Studio. Photo: Ausdance Vic.

NL: The choreographers you commissioned to create the solos are Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long. What drew you to those two dance artists?
LB: I chose these women for their individuality, and the choreographic aesthetic and thematic similarities in their prior bodies of work.

I had worked with Adelina in the past but never in this capacity. I had always been interested in her choreographic practice based, which is based heavily in improvisation, and also her commitment to larger social/political causes like BighART, where she works as a choreographer.

I met Julie-Anne in 2008 in a dance film lab and have been following her work every since. Julie-Anne has an extensive body of work spanning over many years. Part social/political commentary and part autobiographical, her work is clever, humorous and always has something to say. It was learning about her 2007 work The Invisibility Project that really led me to approach her for this project, along with a desire for cross-generational exchange.

NL: What does dance/dance theatre provide, in terms of being able to explore issues relating to women’s rights and feminism, that other art-forms don’t?
LB: I believe movement can say a multitude of things that words cannot, which is why I love this art form. Contemporary dance allows a viewer time and space to think and project their own thoughts onto what they are watching. Each audience member has a uniquely different experience of a dance work and that is why it is such a subjective form.

NL: What do you hope people will take away from Wonder Woman?
LB: My desire is for the audience to take away a sense of empowerment from Wonder Woman regardless of their gender. I want us to celebrate our strengths and flaws as humans and to feel a sense of community in knowing that others share the same experiences.

 Wonder Woman plays the State Theatre Centre of WA, August 28-31.

Read Seesaw’s review of Wonder Woman.

Laura Boynes eating a loaf of bread.
Laura Boynes. Photo: Matt Cornell.

Laura Boynes is an independent dance artist based in Perth. For the last 11 years, Laura has worked professionally as a performer, and has been creating her own work for about 7 years. Her work to date explores social, political and environmental concepts for theatre, gallery and site-specific spaces. She uses performance as a tool to inspire critical thought and reflection on the contemporary world.

As a dancer Laura has worked nationally and internationally in dance, theatre, experimental music, site-specific and opera works. What she enjoys most is taking on a performance challenge and collaborating with a choreographer to realise their vision.

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

In brief: Winter Nights

If the Blue Room’s Summer Nights season is a garden in full bloom, in the soft warm soil of sun-drenched January and February, then its Winter Nights season sees its first green shoots poking through the cold, stony ground of bleak July.

It’s a time for reflection and experimentation, of anticipation of change, of new faces, new stories and new ways of presenting them – in many respects what you see and hear at Winter Nights is preparation for what you will be seeing and hearing in seasons to come.

Seesaw’s short spot reviews provide a quick insight into some of Winter Nights’ offerings. We’ll be posting all Winter Nights reviews below.

Noemie Huttner-Koros, The Lion Never Sleeps ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 24 July ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

Noemie Huttner-Koros’s site-specific roaming performance The Lion Never Sleeps gives a people-centred retrospective of Northbridge’s spirited queer nightlife of the 1980s and earlier.

With headphones and an MP3 track featuring interviews with local LGBTIQA+ elders, participants were harmoniously led by Huttner-Koros and co-performers Evelyn Snook and Aisyah Aaqil Sumito to community sites past and surviving, collectively honouring queer joy, loss, transgression, and resilience.

I encourage the artists to prioritise accessibility for disabled and senior citizens in their next development of this tender and insightful work, being critical of who cannot yet access community, history, and a place in queer futurity.


Rhiannon Petersen, The Jellyman ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 26 July ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

Rhiannon Petersen’s solo performance-in-development The Jellyman is a frank and witty pummelling of toxic masculinity delivered without compromise, as a work about masculinity should be.

At this stage a series of unflinching and comical vignettes and images, including meta mask play and vexing depictions of sexual harassment, The Jellyman undermines the performativity of harmful masculinity through drag and absurd humour to affirm its very flimsy nature, and repeatedly exemplifies masculinity as an ultimately inane tool of power.

The Jellyman is a fearless project determined not to hold anything back, from the queer, to the malignant, to the human.

Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa in collaboration with Centre for Stories, Saga Sisterhood ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 27 July ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

Saga Sisterhood, directed by Sukhjit Kaur Khalsa in collaboration with Centre for Stories, is a big-hearted project which saw four South Asian women share captivating personal stories of love, loss and family as could only have happened in the South Asian diaspora. 

For me, hearing the familiar vernacular and toils of migrant identity and Brown motherhood was like finding home in a black box theatre. As non-performers, the women’s energy and playfulness was contagious; as audience members we were kept on the edge of our seats with wide smiles, and we all left in a buzz of cuddles and multilingual chatter.

Stace Callaghan, Queer as Flux and/or The Medicine of Chaos ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 30 July ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

Stace Callaghan’s Queer as Flux and/or The Medicine of Chaos is a raw, passionate project, making space for Callaghan’s stories of navigating nonbinary identity and gender nonconformity in childhood and adulthood.

Expertly scaling the nooks and crannies of The Blue Room’s main theatre space, the multi-talented writer and performer uses music, poetry, circus and dress-ups to reconfigure archaic definitions of their body, often using their body to tell tales through scars, tattoos, and parts never welcomed.

Whilst many of the stories are culturally appropriative and unsettling to witness, this poignant work is one of great heart and queerly triumphant humanity.

Review: Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Clare Testoni, The Children Grim and Wild ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 27 July ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

Before Second Hands came The Red Shoes; before The Beast and the Bride came Beauty and the Beast.

Both Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Clare Testoni are drawn to fables and fairy tales; Fowler because of his leaning towards dystopia, Testoni through her practice in shadow puppetry and storytelling.
Their collaboration in The Children Grim and Wild is something to savour, and this taste of it – only the bare bones of the performance, and only of its first act – does nothing to dampen the anticipation of the final product.

The story has all the hallmarks of a dark fable; a brother and sister run away to the woods, wolves, orgres and lots of scary bits. The siblings, Grim (Mararo Wangai) and Wild (Erin Hutchinson), are craftily cast, with the extravagance of Hutchinson neatly contrasted by the droll Wangai. The songs, composed by Max Juniper, are shot through with Fowler’s trademark savvy and wicked wit.

Keep an eye out for it.

Review: Michelle Hall, The Dirty Mother ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 3 August ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

The creators of the work-in-progress that make up the Winter Nights programme bring them at different points in their development, both conceptually and as performance. That’s the point.

Nevertheless, it was as startling as it was exciting to see a work as complete in its form and function as Michelle Hall’s The Dirty Woman at Winter Nights.

That’s partly just because it is, but, more importantly, what it is; Hall dives deep into one of the two universal and inevitable boundaries of our lives, and she’s quite right to note that, unlike the other, death, childbirth has been rarely brought to the stage.

Which is strange, because it’s got everything; agony and ecstasy, anger and comedy, the promise of life and the danger of death.

Hall, who’s a passionate and highly skilled performer across many disciplines, delivers all of them, and the result is gripping, exhilarating and radiates truth.

The Dirty Mother will be back, I’m sure, and is not to be missed.

Three dancers: one in yellow, one in blue, one in green. Each has one arm over their head and other extended with a limp wrist.
Alex Abbot, Kimberley Parkin and Rhiana Katz in ‘Fish Feet’. Photo: Tasha Faye

Review: Jessie Camilleri-Seeber & Jocelyn Eddie, Scott Galbraith, Rhiana Katz, & Tahlia Russell, ‘Winter Shorts’ ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 1 August ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Presented as part of the Winter Nights Ground Up program, in which artists develop their work in response to audience feedback over the course of a short performance season, “Winter Shorts” was a mixed bill of four dance works-in-progress. The program viewed was the culmination of the three-night season.

First up, Rhiana Katz presented a self-devised solo entitled the listener. To a haunting melange of piano and vocals by composer Annika Moses, the work sees Katz transformed into an otherworldly creature, whose talons twist and curlicue as she twitches in agitation under a ghostly veil. At once fascinating and discomforting, this unnerving work keeps us delicately poised on the edge of uncertainty.

Next was Sharing by Scott Galbraith, a structured improvisation for two dancers (Aimee Sadler and Galbraith) and a guitarist (composer Abbey Bradstreet). Though the performance space is tight there’s a sense of spaciousness to this work as the performers sweep and fall in response to tumbling guitar strings. Underpinning Sharing is a sweetness born of the trust evident in the quick exchanges of eye contact between the three artists.

Third on the program was another self-devised solo, by Tahlia Russell. Entitled Home, the work sees Russell manipulate a portable greenhouse, that seems to at once protect and constrain her. The tension is ratcheted up by Joel Baker’s soundscape of sirens and storms, as we watch the shadowy outline of Russell’s writhing form. Freed from her plastic shackles, it’s the final moments of this solo that are the highlight, figuratively and literally.

Last was fish feet, by Jessie Camilleri-Seeber and Jocelyn Eddie, a work for three dancers (Alex Abbot, Kimberley Parkin and Rhiana Katz) in its current iteration. It’s a primary coloured trip into the world of show and tell; with a dash of disco and a splash of square dance. Stories are deconstructed; key words singled out and manipulated into an absurdly comical mess of sound and movement. I’m keen to see where this work goes next.

Having seen versions of three of these works previously, I could see the benefit that the Ground Up process has had on the their creative development. Kudos to the Blue Room Theatre for providing this opportunity to artists.

More spot reviews coming soon!

Winter Nights closes August 3.

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Firing the senses

Review: Bangarra Dance Theatre, “30 years of sixty five thousand” ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, 31 July ·
Review by Jo Pickup ·

“We are the books of yesterday”.

These were amongst the words spoken by Balladong Noongar artist Barry McGuire in his welcoming address to the audience at the premiere of Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Perth season “30 years of sixty five thousand”.

Indeed, on opening night, the bodies of 17 Bangarra dancers pulsed with stories of both ancient and more recent pasts, as they performed three works specially chosen by the company’s Artistic Director Stephen Page to comprise the company’s thirtieth anniversary season.

The three works are Unaipon (2004) by former Bangarra dancer-turned-choreographer Frances Rings; Stamping Ground (1983) by internationally renowned Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, and to make fire, a 40 minute work comprised of various memorable moments from the company’s repertoire as chosen by Stephen Page.

Tyrel Dulvarie in 'Unaipon'. Photo: Daniel Boud.
Tyrel Dulvarie in ‘Unaipon’. Photo: Daniel Boud.

Firstly, Unaipon. This is a work inspired by Aboriginal inventor and philosopher David Unaipon, a Ngarrindjeri man whose face now appears on the Australian $50 note. At first, Unaipon’s score (composed by the late David Page), resonates with mellifluous orchestral string sounds. Five male dancers clad in bright orange pants soon appear and zigzag across the stage, sliding and stretching between long elastic strings which are pulled taut like a clothesline across the width of the space.

The dancers expertly weave themselves through this maze creating small geometric kaleidoscopes at intermittent intervals. The music also builds into impressive patterns and layers that include rattling, stick tapping and deep electronic beats. The small ensemble of performers move with effortless strength and vitality, though dancer Beau Dean Riley Smith is particularly captivating here. At particular moments his physical presence eclipses his band of brothers; his unique series of flexes and strikes are achieved with remarkable precision.

As more dancers enter the stage, the work progresses to scenes of male-female duets and cyclical stage patterning. By the end, we seem to have been taken into a world of an individual whose life was layered with complex questions of identity. Through Rings’s choreography; Page’s sound score; Peter England’s set design and Nick Schlieper’s lighting, certain aspects of Unaipon’s life as a traditional Ngarrindjeri man, a man raised by a white family, and a man who was a devout Christian are drawn out in poetic and, at times, highly abstract style.

Ryan Pearson,Tyrel Dulvarie, Ella Havelka in 'Stamping Ground'. Photo: Daniel Boud.
Ryan Pearson, Tyrel Dulvarie, Ella Havelka in ‘Stamping Ground’. Photo: Daniel Boud.

This complex intertwining of different cultures and beliefs also imbues Jiří Kylián’s iconic work Stamping Ground. This piece was created in the early eighties after Kylián travelled from Europe to Northern Australia to experience a massive corroboree at Groote Eylandt. The result is a fascinating window into Kylian’s creative mind and curious spirit. To see Kylian’s response to these traditional, ceremonial Aboriginal dances, expressed through his signature balletic, yet boundary-pushing modern dance style was very interesting. Aesthetically stripped back and minimalist, the six dancers in this work (three male, three female), performed Kylian’s both profound and playful visions in dynamic fashion on opening night. Especially impressive was the performance of soloist Baden Hitchcock. His leaps were magnificent, his landings silent and controlled. Throughout the work, though especially in his opening solos, he moved with a mesmerising eloquence that was almost breathtaking and left a deep impression.

And lastly, to make fire. As a selection of best-bits and moving moments Bangarra’s archive over the past thirty years, on the whole, the piece seemed subtle in its choices. However (and almost as an admonishment for such an observation) its closing scene comes up trumps. A circle of dancers in white dust lie on a darkened stage until a moment of awakening. This waking instant is dramatic, enlivening and stirring. Yes, Bangarra continues to fire our senses in its power to connect us to the strength inherent in Aboriginal culture and stories, and “30 Years of Sixty Five Thousand” is a nourishing reminder of that.

Bangarra Dance Theatre’s “30 Years of Sixty Five Thousand” plays until August 3.

Pictured top: Courtney Radford, Tyrel Dulvarie and Gusta Mara in ‘to make fire’. Photo: Daniel Boud.

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Woman in blue snowsuit with long grey hair with background of tin foil
August 19, Calendar, Dance, Featured, Performing arts

Dance: Wonder Woman

28 – 31 August @ Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by State Theatre Centre of WA and Laura Boynes ·

Imagine feminism was a superhero.
Imagine laughing together with the women of the world.
Wonder Woman is here. Time is up.

Provocative and physical, Wonder Woman unearths the everyday superhero and delivers a solid punch to the gut. A double bill of dance works choreographed by NSW artists Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long in collaboration with WA performer Laura Boynes, this is an exposing, funny and intimate show that will have you furiously nodding in agreement and shouting me too.

“Laura Boynes brought her powerful presence… characteristically self aware, even self-deprecating, but always exuding a certain magnetism that leaves you unable to blink.” – Yolande Norris BMA

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