A woman (Katherine Gurr) tries to hold back two men (Ian Wilkes and Andrew Searle)
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A richly layered work

Review: Co3 Australia, The Line ·
Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre of WA, 16 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

At the heart of Co3 Australia’s latest contemporary dance work, The Line, is a story of racial segregation.

This story may be unfamiliar to many West Australians, but it’s part of our not-so-distant past. Between 1927 and 1954, there was a law in place that banned Aboriginal people from entering the City of Perth’s boundaries after 6pm, unless they could prove that they were in “lawful employment”. The work’s title refers to the boundary lines of what was known as the Prohibited Area.

It’s a tough topic to tackle, particularly through the non-verbal medium of dance. Nonetheless, The Line’s directors – Co3 Artistic Director Raewyn Hill and Artistic Associate Mark Howett – have created a work that resists the temptation of a simple plot. Though interspersed with narrative elements, it is up to the audience to draw the threads together.

What we do see is an Aboriginal man (Noongar dancer Ian Wilkes) and a white woman (Katherine Gurr), who appear to be a couple. They are repeatedly pursued, interrogated and attacked by a man – some kind of policing officer – played by Andrew Searle.

The design elements of the work are immediately striking. As the curtain rises we see seven swings hanging from the fly loft, suspended by long chains that slice the space. A narrow tube of light crosses the darkened back of the stage, intersecting the vertical lines of the swings. Perched high above the dancers, it appears stationary… but time will reveal otherwise. In the dim, hazy light, the atmosphere is eerie as two dancers (Wilkes and Gurr) make lazy, sweeping arcs, on symmetrically placed swings. The peace is broken as the official-type man shouts loudly “YOU!” and mayhem ensues.

A man hold his hand like a gun to another man's jaw.
Constant tension: Ian Wilkes and Andrew Searle. Photo: Daniel Carson

From here the choreography oscillates between anguish and slapstick. Though the conflict is primarily between the Aboriginal and the white man, all three characters seem to be constantly wrestling with one another, and with themselves. The tension rarely lets up, and though this is, no doubt, intentional, it’s exhausting to watch. An exception is a gorgeously soft solo that blends Auslan signs with gestures from traditional Aboriginal dance (beautifully danced by Wilkes), followed by the soothing to-and-fro of the three dancers swinging, bathed in pyramids of light.

It can’t last though and soon we’re plunged back into the cartoon-like violence that punctuates the work. Though horrifying to watch, these repeating scenes of slow-motion violence are fascinating for the skill of both choreography and execution.

Throughout the work, Eden Mulholland’s score is, quite simply, fabulous. Played live in the main, the layers of sound range from long and eerie notes interspersed with storms of recorded voiceovers and ominous rumblings, to a rollicking, romping, 1930s jazz vibe. With James Crabb on classical accordion and Mulholland on a startling array of instruments (various guitars, piano, synthesizer, vocals, percussion), the music is a glorious performance in itself.

The design elements of this work are exceptional too, and with such a rich visual and musical backdrop, a cast of three – the number dictated, presumably, by budget limitations – seems too small, especially in relation to the scope of the issues that the work is tackling. It seems odd, too, to have only one Aboriginal performer, given the work’s context.

That said, the three dancers gave compelling performances on opening night, displaying admirable physical and emotional stamina. Though the duo and trio work was impressive, it was in their solo moments that each dancer shone brightest, Searle slicing and dicing, Gurr arching and melting, and Wilkes gently gesturing.

The repetitive structure of this work, in combination with the near-constant tension, feels unrelenting and – ultimately – unresolved. Though these artistic choices are effective, in terms of representing the discrimination that Aboriginal people have suffered and continue to suffer, personally, I found myself longing for relief.

But perhaps that was the point. Around me, audience members rose to their feet to applaud.

The Line plays until May 19.

Read an interview with directors Raewyn Hill and Mark Howett.

Pictured top are Ian Wilkes, Katherine Gurr and Andrew Searle in “The Line”. Photo: Daniel Carson.

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Calendar, Dance, June 19, May 19, Performing arts

Dance: precipice

29 May – 1 Jun @ Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by State Theatre Centre of WA and Rachel Arianne Ogle ·

Inspired by tectonic shifts, gravitational torsion and states of emotional rupture, ‘precipice’ is a dance of abandon and precarious control. Australian choreographer Rachel Arianne Ogle wields her technical and extremely physical style to draw immense unseen forces in the bodies of four dancers.

Ogle has assembled leading performance designers to create a multi-sensory experience where choreography unfolds within an electrifying light and sound installation. Contrasting precision and strength with mounting tension and fragility, this is a bold and unique work of contemporary dance from one of Australia’s rising choreographic artists.

precipice returns to the State Theatre Centre of WA after premiering here in August 2014 to critical acclaim. It was subsequently nominated for a Helpmann Award for ‘Best Dance Work’ and an Australian Dance Award for ‘Outstanding Achievement in Independent Dance’ in 2015.

“precipice began its life as an exploration of various physical states in opposition. It very quickly grew to take on a voice and direction of its own, to transcend my initial points of departure and delve into territory encompassing grander concepts of the universe. The infinite space in which we exist and to which we are intimately interconnected, and the invisible forces that are constantly at play within this, are beyond the realm of my conception. Through considering our place in this immense system, we unveil a profound vulnerability and fragility that is both ephemeral and enigmatic.” – Rachel Arianne Ogle

“A knockout production… Rapid high-tech triggers transport us into an expansive universe through light, sound and dance… a ticket to another dimension” – The West Australian

“An intriguing visual feast… the resultant whole assaulting the senses and stirring emotions.” – Artshub

Choreography by Rachel Arianne Ogle
Performance by Tyrone Robinson, Niharika Senapati, Yilin Kong, Imanuel Dado
Visual Design by Benjamin Cisterne
Sound Composition by Luke Smiles / motion laboratories
Costume Design by Colleen Sutherland
Produced by Sam Fox

More info:
www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/precipice/

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A rare treat

West Australian Ballet, La Bayadère ·
His Majesty’s Theatre, 9 May ·
Review by Amy Wiseman ·

La Bayadère or The Temple Dancer is not widely known; curious perhaps, considering the 1877 ballet was originally choreographed by none other than Marius Petipa – of Swan Lake and Nutcracker fame. The universal themes of love, betrayal and redemption combined with an exotic setting, lilting music by Ludwig Minkus and technically challenging choreography meant the ballet became a revered hit in Russia, and eventually in Europe when it was finally staged in full, late in the 20th Century.

This co-production between West Australian Ballet, Queensland Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet sees the classic story modernised by choreographer Greg Horsman, injecting Petipa’s original choreography with new sequences and setting the story in a more “real” India, in 1855. Die-hard ballet fans will still recognise Kingdom of the Shades (Act II, Scene I) repertoire and many of the solos, which are regularly performed as competition or gala excerpts around the world. This version’s story, however, hinges on a political treaty to bring an end to hostilities with an arranged marriage and, as a result, a tragic love triangle.

On opening night, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra was in excellent form under the careful guidance of conductor Judith Yan. Nigel Gaynor’s musical arrangement, with its initial strum of a sitar, instantly gives the ballet a sense of place. Visually, too, the production is striking with sumptuous sets and luxuriously detailed costumes – both designed by Gary Harris – complemented by Jon Buswell’s glorious lighting, which features rich dramatic sky-scapes that stain the stage pink and orange. While a spectacle for the senses, aspects of the design and direction waver dangerously into religious ambiguity and clichéd “exoticism” – a detail that, one would hope, would be considered in a modern re-telling.

Kaleidoscopic images. Pictured front is Carina Roberts. Photo: Sergey Pevnev

Despite a lengthy three acts, the story moves swiftly, thanks to considered scene changes and clarity of story-telling, assisted by strong character roles. Seasonal Artist Andries Weidemann, as the Maharajah of Cooch Behar, and Company Ballet Master Craig Lord-Sole, as the Governor-General of India, are noteworthy in reinforcing the themes of familial honour and obligation with appropriate sobriety and concern. To keep the peace, a marriage between their children, Prince Solor (Matthew Lehmann) and Edith (Chihiro Nomura), is arranged. In secret, however, Solor has already declared his undying love and devotion to Nikiya, a temple dancer, played by recently appointed Dayana Hardy Acuña.

Lehmann’s trademark ease in partnering and accomplished acting were evident in this challenging role, that demands prowess and stamina. Acuña also shone as Nikiya, with beautifully articulate port de bras, breath-catching control and graceful expression. The stand-out performance on opening night, however, was Nomura, who not only excelled technically but captured Edith’s full emotional gamut, from comic cheek to furious rage, gushing fiancée to wilful seductress.

Acts I and III blend genres of dance, from kaleidoscopic images of a Hindu deity, to vast ballroom scenes incorporating waltzing tuxedos and turbans in equal measure. But it is Petipa’s famous Kingdom of the Shades scene in Act II that is a particular highlight.  This is ballet at its most exposing. Mesmeric sequences of arabesques performed slowly, carefully one-by-one down a moon-lit ramp and across the stage require exceptional focus and strength from the corps de ballet. Exacting formations and vulnerable balances felt both artistically ethereal and technically rock solid in the performance viewed – the choreography bold in its simplicity and precision. Special mentions to Candice Adea, first to enter, for her poise and control and to soloists Carina Roberts, Ana Gallardo Lobaina and Polly Hilton, for demonstrating immense skill and generous artistry in their difficult solos. Opening night jitters or perhaps a slippery stage created a few tense moments for Lehmann and Acuña, though they remained composed and recovered swiftly.

Despite some issues in this re-telling, La Bayadère has something for ballet fans and the uninitiated alike. It is a rare treat to see this technically challenging production in Perth.

La Bayadere plays until May 25. 

Pictured top is Alexa Tuzil as Nikiya (photo is from a different casting, due to unexpected cast changes). Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

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Calendar, Dance, May 19, Performing arts

Dance: The Body Politic

22 – 25 May @ Geoffs Gibbs Theatre, WAAPA, Mount Lawley ·
Presented by LINK Dance Company ·

“Collectively we are powerful,” says Michael Whaites, Artistic Director of LINK, WAAPA’s graduate dance company. “That’s the theme for The Body Politic, which showcases our talented dancers in imaginative contemporary dance pieces from a trio of exceptional choreographers.”

The Body Politic is an exciting triple bill of new dance works choreographed on the LINK Dance Company by visiting Israeli choreographer Niv Marinberg, Co3 founding Artistic Director Raewyn Hill, and WAAPA graduate Scott Elstermann, the first Australian to win a prestigious Pina Bausch Fellowship.

The Body Politic will be performed in WAAPA’s Geoff Gibbs Theatre from 22-24 May at 7.30pm with a matinee on Saturday 25 May at 2.00pm.

Tickets $28 / $23 Concession and Friends
Bookings: Tel: (08) 9370 6895 or online at: www.waapa.ecu.edu.au/boxoffice

More info:
www.waapa.ecu.edu.au/research-and-creative-activity/performance-groups/link-dance-company

Pictured: The Body Politic, credit Christophe Canato

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Katherine Gurr and Ian Wilkes rehearsing The Line
Dance, Features, News, Performing arts

Telling a tough West Australian tale

Co3 Australia’s new work The Line investigates a darker side of Western Australia’s past and its impact on the present, discovers Nina Levy.

Say the word “apartheid” and most people will think of the regime of racial segregation implemented by the South African government from 1948 until the early 1990s.

Mark Howett and Raewyn Hill in rehearsal. Photo: Daniel Carson | dcimges.org

But legislated racial discrimination is a part of Australian history too and it’s this story that WA’s state contemporary dance company Co3 Australia is telling in its new work The Line, co created by Co3 Artistic Director and choreographer Raewyn Hill and Co3 Associate Artist Mark Howett, a Noongar man and a director and designer for theatre, dance, opera and film.

The title The Line refers to a law, passed in 1927, that prohibited Aboriginal people from coming within the boundary lines of the City of Perth – an area of about five square kilometres – after 6.00pm, unless they could prove that they were in “lawful employment”. The land inside the boundaries was referred to as the Prohibited Area, and only those Aboriginal people with a special “native pass” were allowed to pass through it after the 6pm curfew.

In spite of the fact that the legislation remained in place for over 20 years, this piece of West Australian history isn’t well-known today and that’s one of the reasons that Hill and Howett have chosen it as the starting point for Co3 Australia’s latest work. It’s also relevant to the company’s mission, says Hill. “Part of Co3’s artistic vision is to situate the artistic program within our people, our culture, our community, our land, our Country, our experiences, our history,” she elaborates. “Every work developed in Co3’s repertoire will have some reference to WA.”

Andrew Searle and Ian Wilkes rehearsing ‘The Line’. Photo: Daniel Carson | dcimges.org

This isn’t the first time that Hill and Howett have worked together. As artistic director of WA’s Ochre Contemporary Dance Company, Howett convinced Hill to come out of performance retirement to dance in his physical theatre work Good Little Soldier in 2017. The pair knew they wanted to collaborate again, so when Hill started looking for WA stories, Howett was an obvious person to approach.

“We started talking about Roe St and the possibility of making a piece that related to something near the State Theatre Centre of WA (where The Line will be performed),” recalls Howett. “I said, ‘You know that we’re really in the heart of the Prohibited Area, in the theatre.’” Hill then gave Howett Stephen Kinnane’s Shadow Lines to read, a book that tells the story of Kinnane’s grandparents, an Aboriginal woman and an Englishman, and the challenges they faced, as a result of their different racial backgrounds, in early to mid-twentieth century WA. Shadow Lines details many of the hardships and cruelties faced by Aboriginal people at the hands of the Government, including the Prohibited Area.

“The conversation really took off from there,” says Howett. “We thought that there was something in [that book] that was pretty remarkable, in a way… and in the lack of [awareness amongst] most West Australians about the Prohibited Area, and its impact on the Noongar community, and Aboriginal community in general.”

Talking to Noongar elders Lynette Narkle, Richard Walley, Darryl Kickett and Anna Haebich has played a big role in shaping The Line, says Hill. “I remember saying to Mark – not so long ago – that I was worried, because I couldn’t find the core [of the story]. He said to me, ‘Don’t worry, the elders will bring the story.’ And they did. We always knew [the story] was around the concept of the Prohibited Area: separation, segregation, confinement … but … speaking with the Elders I felt they brought the story of recognition, reconciliation, empathy, compassion, healing.”

And though the story is (loosely) set in Perth of the 1930s, the focus is very much on the present, says Hill. “Talking to people, [we’ve found that many] didn’t even realise that [the Prohibited Area] existed. We’ve sort of uncovered something about our past and then we’ve made a narrative about that, but we talk about the impact on how we are currently, rather than saying here’s a story about [our past].

“So instead of saying, ‘Here’s a story about the Prohibited Area,’ we’re saying, ‘What did that [legislation] do to us as a community, as people? How did that shape our current situation?’”

It’s important to Hill and Howett, too, that audiences understand that while the Prohibited Area may be a thing of the past, discrimination continues today, in other guises.

“I find the parallels [between Australian society of the past and the present] remarkable,” says Howett. “The 2003 Curfew Act – which was another welfare policy by the State Government to take unaccompanied minors off the street and had a big impact on the Aboriginal community – was really, in a way, no different to the policy of the Prohibited Area and having to have a native pass. The parallels keep coming. Like, for example, most of the Aboriginal people who were taken to Wadjemup (Rottnest), [when it was a prison for Aboriginal people during the 1800s and early 1900s] were arrested for larceny and petty crimes, and you only have to think of the young Noongar actor just sent to jail for unpaid fines… the echoes of that are really remarkable.”

Hill agrees. “It’s a story that’s alive and well, it’s more than current.”

It’s also, Hill acknowledges, “very difficult subject matter, it’s filled with trauma and it’s dark, and there’s a lot of pain.”

So how to present that on stage?

“The way we’ve been dealing with it on a narrative level is we’ve been using slapstick when it gets really heavy, drawing from silent movies,” explains Howett.

“We’ve been looking at Charlie Chaplin, silent movies, looking at the irony of his storytelling and how he could address darkness with no voice and just through mime,” continues Hill. “That’s been a real inspiration.

“It’s not about dumbing it down or cheapening it, but we’ve been able to talk about some really dark things through humour. So in fact we’ve probably gone even a bit darker… but it doesn’t necessarily feel like that. You are left laughing and laughter is something that brings us together, as a community. It’s a common language.

“Mark is extraordinary at telling a story. That’s what brings us together as makers. What I’m intrigued about, as a maker, is finding different ways of telling that story where you mute the voice, or the voice sits outside of the physical body. So we’ve been playing with that, and that’s enabled a whole new movement language.”

Ian Wilkes and Andrew Searle rehearsing ‘The Line’. Photo: Daniel Carson | dcimges.org

Talking to Hill and Howett, it’s apparent that they approach the process of making the work from opposite perspectives, but rather than clashing, they complement one another.

“Mark has a phenomenal ability to direct, to find narrative, to tell stories and I don’t think I do!” Hill laughs before continuing, “The combination of Mark’s direction, with my movement imagery and language… we feel like these sit quite beautifully together.”

For Howett, Hill’s dance knowledge is a gift. “It’s great for me, as a maker, to have someone who understands the mechanics of the body much more [than I do],” he muses. “I can often see something that’s not working [for the dancers], but don’t really know how to fix it mechanically. Raewyn will really easily resolve it. She does a little dance horse-whispering.”

The Line plays the State Theatre Centre of WA, May 15-19.

Pictured top are dancers Katherine Gurr and Ian Wilkes rehearsing ‘The Line’. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Standards continue to rise

Review: WAAPA 2nd and 3rd year dance, ‘Rise’ ·
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, 4 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

With a stellar line-up of choreographic names on the bill for the WAAPA dance department’s May season, I took my seat in the Geoff Gibbs Theatre with anticipation. The program that followed more than lived up to expectation.

Sarah Ross and Alexander Diedler in ‘A Fraction of Abstraction’, by Sasha Janes. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

First up was A Fraction of Abstraction, created for its cast of 11 third year dancers by visiting Perth-born, US-based choreographer Sasha Janes. With all performers – male and female – costumed in stylish black leotards teamed with elegant skirts, the mood of this work is racy in more senses than one; playful (even flirtatious) but competitive. Set to a selection of pieces from the maelstrom of strings and percussion that is John Adams’ Book of Alleged Dances, A Fraction of Abstraction is, for the most part, comprised of fast-paced duets, frantic canons and teetering off-centre balances,  all  beautifully executed by the third year dancers on opening night.

I say “for the most part”; a poignant pas de deux, set to Johan Johannsson and Hildur Guonadottir’s yearning “Flight From the City”, punctuates the work’s centre. Packed with complicated lifts, the female dancer seems almost to swim around her partner. Despite a few shaky moments (opening night nerves perhaps?) dancers Alexander Diedler and Sarah Ross managed the challenges of this difficult and lengthy duet with impressive focus.

Second year students performing Claudia Alessi’s ‘Holding on to Fall’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

Up next was Holding on to Fall, a contemporary work choreographed by Claudia Alessi, exploring the concept that “falling is inextricably linked to holding on”. The work – by necessity – has a large cast, created for the current second year Bachelor degree students, who number more than 20. That’s a lot of bodies and though the stage feels cluttered at times, at others, the numbers provide power. This is particularly noticeable at work’s start – we see the dancers clustered in a slow-moving pyramid, their arms reaching as one, while Elvis sings of being “lonesome tonight”. This moment has a nostalgic appeal, gesturing, perhaps, to a desire to hold on to the past. In this scene and throughout, all dancers performed with intensity and commitment. Mention must be made, too, of the haunting vocals of singer Lucy Schneider.

Also striking are the solos performed on a single point harness that hangs from the fly loft, allowing the dancer to swing suspended, about a metre from the floor. Of particular note was Niña Brown’s solo, which saw her surge into a handstand that tipped as the rope swung her back so that she lay, prone, her hair trailing like Millais’ Ophelia.

‘Shade’ by Kim McCarthy. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

After interval, the mood turned autumnal, with Shade by WAAPA lecturer Kim McCarthy. Made for 16 second year students, gently falling leaves form a backdrop to this neoclassical work, which is set to a selection of richly textured  music, mostly by contemporary composers Johan Johannsson and/or Hildur Guonadottir.

Clad in shades of russet, amber and mustard, the dancers tumble and spiral, rond and roll. Various pas de deux see female dancers tossed and spun. Trios comprised of one male to two female dancers have the men working double time, switching from partner to partner at lightning speed. Like the first work of the evening, the fast pace of this work is demanding and the second year students rose to the challenge with style and grace.

Third year dancers performing “Liminal” by Lauren Langlois. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography

Rounding out the evening’s entertainment was Liminal, a new work created for 18 third year students by Perth-born, Melbourne-based dancer and choreographer Lauren Langlois. Though the movement for the work has been created in collaboration with the dancers, it has, nonetheless, the inimitable stamp of its maker. As a performer Langlois is known for the furious energy that she emanates on stage. On opening night that manic magnetism was transferred to her young cast, who gave a mesmerising performance.

Liminal “explores symbiosis and transformation inspired by fractal patterns in nature” and the patterns in this work are compelling, from the clump of twitching, turning heads in the opening, to the line of tightly interlinked arms that spirals and undulates like a giant, robotic caterpillar. In shades of midnight blue through to pale turquoise, Anna Weir’s costumes lend an aquatic feel to proceedings, while the soundscape, created by 2018 WAAPA graduate and recent Fullbright scholarship winner Azariah Felton, fills the air with a kind of crackling magic, an abstracted storm.

This is a particularly pleasing program of work from WAAPA’s dance department. Highly recommended.

“Rise” plays until May 10.

Pictured top: Third year students performing Lauren Langlois’s ‘Liminal’. Photo: Stephen Heath Photography.

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2018 PAWA Award winners holding their certificates
Dance, Features, News, Performing arts, Theatre

And the winners are…

The 2018 Performing Arts WA (PAWA) Awards were held Monday 28 April, at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. Presented annually, these WA-based industry awards have traditionally celebrated outstanding achievement in theatre. In 2018, however, the PAWA Awards were expanded to include a selection of prizes for dance, making for a record number of awards presented on the night. The excitement, too, was heightened, as representatives from both art-forms came together to recognise the achievements of artists and companies across the two disciplines.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Performing Arts WA Awards:

DANCE AWARDS

Best Production presented by Bendigo Bank North Perth: Dust on the Shortbread – Anything Is Valid Dance Theatre

Best Performer (Female) Ella-Rose Trew.

Best New Work presented by Bendigo Bank North Perth: Krzysztof Pastor – Dracula, West Australian Ballet

Best Newcomer presented by MEAA: Luci Young – Frank Enstein, Co3 Australia

Oscar Valdes and partner
Best Performer (Male): Oscar Valdés with Sophia Raine.

Best Performer (Male): Oscar Valdés – La Sylphide, West Australian Ballet

Best Performer (Female): Ella-Rose Trew – WA Dance Makers Project, Co3 Australia

Best Director or Choreographer: Grayson Millwood and Gavin Webber – Frank Enstein, made by The Farm in collaboration with Co3 Australia

 

THEATRE AWARDS

Julia Hales holding two awards
Winner of the award for Best New Work, ‘You Know We Belong Together’ writer and performer Julia Hales.

Best Mainstage Production presented by Hawaiian: You Know We Belong Together – A Black Swan, Perth Festival and DADAA Co-Production

Director of ‘Frankie’s’ (Best Independent Production) Libby Klysz.

Best Independent Production presented by Bendigo Bank North Perth: Frankie’s – The Blue Room Theatre and Variegated Productions

Best New Work presented by Bendigo Bank North Perth: Julia Hales with Finn O’Branagain and Clare Watson – You Know We Belong Together, A Black Swan, Perth Festival and DADAA Co-Production

Best Newcomer presented by MEAA: Mackenzie Dunn – Assassins & Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Best Supporting Actor (Male): Will O’Mahony – Assassins, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Best Supporting Actor (Female): Morgan Owen – Court My Crotch, The Blue Room Theatre & FUGUE

Best Actor in a Mainstage Production (Female), Amy Mathews.

Best Actor in a Mainstage Production (Male) presented by Artist Management Australia: Kelton Pell – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Best Actor in a Mainstage Production (Female) presented by Moore Creative Artists: Amy Mathews – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company

St John Cowcher
Best Actor in an Independent Production (Male): St John Cowcher.

Best Actor in an Independent Production (Male) presented by Media Super: St John Cowcher – Frankie’s, The Blue Room Theatre and Variegated Productions

Best Actor in an Independent Production (Female) presented by Media Super: Frieda Lee – The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish, The Blue Room Theatre and Frieda, Sam and Friends

Best Director of a Mainstage Production: Adam Mitchell – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Scott McArdle holding his award
Scott McArdle, winner of the award for Best Director of an Independent Production.

Best Director of an Independent Production presented by Gage Roads: Scott McArdle – Josephine!, The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights and Second Chance Theatre

 

THEATRE & DANCE: PRODUCTION AWARDS

Best Sound Design: Eden Mulholland – In-Lore Act II as part of WA Dance Makers Project, Co3 Australia

Best Lighting Design: Joe Lui – Love/Less, Kynan Hughes & MoveMe Festival

Tyler Hill, winner of the award for Best Stage Design.

Best Stage Design: Tyler Hill – Hir, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Best Costume Design: Charles Cusick Smith – Dracula, West Australian Ballet

Michael Brett, winner of the award for Best Composition or Arranging.

Best Composition or Arranging: Michael Brett – Dracula, West Australian Ballet

To see the list of nominees, head to www.seesawmag.com.au/news/2018-performing-arts-wa-awards-nominations

Pictured top are the happy winners with the State Member for Perth, John Carey.

All photos: Rebecca Mansell.

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Three women dancing in semi-darkness
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Transporting hearts and minds

Review: Sym Parr, The Presence of Wool ·
Shearing Shed North of Albany, 14 April ·
Review by Maree Dawes ·

Sym Parr has been working with community dance projects and the concept of the shadowy remnants of things – including wool – for over five years. The Presence of Wool is a culmination of both these strands.

From the outset, this work has a time-shifting quality; most audience members arrive by bus, swept from the city through the darkening streets, then country roads, to arrive at a shearing shed in the last of the light. The tea and coffee available for patrons on arrival could have been laid out for shearers past.

The shed is large, distorted by shadows and decorated with repurposed woollen artefacts. Its structures creak as it stirs in the cool wind, augmenting composer James Gentle’s soundscape. Though the work takes place, predominantly, inside the shed, the mind of the viewer is swept with the dancers, through paddocks, trees and pens, over fences into the wool stalls.

A group of dancers, moving in smoky semi-darkness.
Smoke billows through the slats, evocative of fire. Photo: Bob Symons.

The cast consists of professional dancers Rita Bush, Cayleigh Davies and Talitha Maslin, alongside community dancers and local dance students, all of whom perform with noteworthy focus, energy and joy in movement. Exciting changes of pace are heightened, both by the range of experience amongst the dancers and by the choreography, which encompasses mechanical movements, characterisations of 1950’s workers, child-like play, struggle and death.

Dim lighting and an uneven floor ensure that audience members’ senses are on high alert as they make their way through the shed, directed only by flashlights. One scene sees lighting and smoke billowing up through the slats, evocative of a fire. In another, a dancer (Talitha Maslin) flees through the darkness, slamming gates and thumping the corrugated walls – an escaped sheep, the cook on the rampage? At times, the movement of the audience is distracting but it can also been seen as part of an immersive experience.

Three dancers in a shed, they each step one foot forward and spiral towards the front foot, arms held up as if in surrender.
The dancers perform with noteworthy focus, energy and joy in movement. Pictured (L-R): Cayleigh Davies, Talitha Maslin and Rita Bush. Photo: Bob Symons.

The inexorable soundscape has its softer moments, possible reflecting on childhood or pastoral scenes. More often, though, it amplifies the edginess of the performance. The shed is a character in its own right and Gentle’s sound recordings from local sites – including the old woollen mills (foundations laid 1923), voice recordings of people who worked in the mills and snippets of 1950’s pop tunes – are central to the creation of that character.

With little divide between the viewer and viewed, the audience is wrapped in the experience. In the final moments three dancers are silhouetted by hand-held lights, out in the paddocks. Audience members drift in, closer and closer, until suddenly it is over and the doors of the bus open.

On the bus ride home I think about refugees, homelessness, poverty, death camps, animal welfare, childhood games, meaningful work, precious fabric, shedding the unwanted and repurposing. The Presence of Wool is an immersive experience that stimulates heart and mind.

The Presence of Wool had its season in Albany, April 12-14.

Pictured top, from left to right are Rita Underwood, Annette Davis, Jassica Hesford. All photos by Bob Symons.

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

No short cuts here

Review: STRUT Dance, ‘Short Cuts 2019 – Program A’ ·
Studio 3, King Street Arts Centre ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

There’s something special about seeing dance performed in a studio setting. It’s that sense of peeping behind-the-scenes, watching dance in the place that it’s made. For this reason, I’m always pleased to head along to STRUT Dance’s annual “Short Cuts”, a mixed bill of short new contemporary dance works by independent artists, divided into two programs, A and B.

As the audience is reminded each year, each “Short Cuts” artist has just 20 hours in the studio to create and rehearse their work. So, although the program is presented to the public, the works are generally first-stage developments of new ideas; works in progress.

The nature of “Short Cuts” makes it more accessible to younger choreographers than most creative opportunities, and this year’s Program A is comprised, predominantly, of works from young emerging choreographers, with the exception of Unsex me here, created and performed by Kynan Hughes and Bridget Le May. An exploration of the character of Lady Macbeth, this grappling and compelling duet is accompanied by droning strings, electronic beats and snatches of text from Macbeth, spoken with intensity by Le May. Particularly effective is the use of a hand-held light which creates pockets of darkness as it disappears between the dancers’ bodies as they clasp one another.

At the other end of the spectrum, in terms of professional experience, are two works by 2018 graduates of WAAPA’s Link Dance Company (a one-year pre-professional company for graduates). fish feet, by Jessie Camilleri-Seeber and Jocelyn Eddie, is a primary-coloured, four-part “conversation as word association” performed by Alex Abbot, Rhiana Katz, Kimberley Parkin and Macon Riley. A series of overlapping and interweaving anecdotes from four characters – accompanied by and interspersed with solos, duets and quartets – this work has a cartoon-like feel. Nights in White Satin, by Kimberley Parkin, is a solo work (plus cameo by Parkin), performed by Ana Music, in which the dancer lurches, physically and metaphorically, from audience member to performer. Though entertaining, and performed with zesty aplomb by their young casts, both these offerings felt a little too ambitious in terms of length and scope.

The remaining four works are by dance artists who graduated from WAAPA between 2013 and 2016. Two are solos, the first of which is Tried, In My Way, choreographed and performed by May Greenberg. Set to a recording of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire” by Ester Ofarim (but initially sung unaccompanied by Greenberg), this gutsy solo showcases Greenberg’s strengths with surges and collapses, and long leg extensions that draw air-borne circles. The second solo, Different I’s, is choreographed by Russell Thorpe and performed by Rhiana Katz. Investigating “consciousness and how we remember ourselves”, Different I’s has a dreamy, thoughtful quality, that was beautifully conveyed by Katz.

For me, the two highlights of the evening were the first and last pieces. Opening the program, The Collapse of Brief Systems, choreographed by Dean-Ryan Lincoln and danced by Lincoln and Tahlia Russell, impressed with its movement exploration. In particular, the latter section of the work, in which a subtle weight shift almost imperceptibly expands and morphs from quiet to desperate gestures, is captivating.

Concluding proceedings, Mitchell Harvey’s Views and Series is trio for three women that takes its inspiration from the paintings of Japanese artist Hokusai. Though the resulting work seems more abstract than the program notes imply, as an exploration of movement and light, this work is engaging. The strong drum beat of Hirota Joji’s “Heart Beat” drives the work, which is at times serene and sculptural, at others athletic and sensual. There’s a pleasing physicality to this work, embodied here by dancers Ana Music, May Greenberg and Zoe Wozniak.

With its limited creative development and rehearsal time, “Short Cuts” can be a mixed bag. This year’s Program A, though varied, is consistently engaging.

“Short Cuts – Program A” is showing again at 5pm, Saturday 13 April. Program B runs Friday 12 April and Saturday 13 April at 7pm.

Pictured top is Mel Tan, whose work appears in “Short Cuts – Program B. Photo: Simon Pynt

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four young women dancing. One is in the foreground, arching her back, her arms outstretched
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A generous double bill

Not Sold Separately, ‘ceilings’ ·
Huzzard Studios, 7 April ·
Review by Jo Pickup ·

ceilings” is the debut production by new dance theatre collective Not Sold Separately. Spearheaded by recent WAAPA dance graduates Olivia Hendry and Briannah Davis, this duo’s venture follows in the wake of various other independent collectives recently added to Perth’s busy contemporary dance and theatre scene.

What sets these young dance makers apart from others in the pack is their resolve to self-produce and present a raw, challenging dance programme in an off-the-track theatre space, outside of Perth’s peak performance season (Perth Festival and Fringe World time). The brains and brawn required to successfully pull-off such a professional production is already a noteworthy achievement.

As a double bill of mid-length dance theatre pieces, “ceilings” appears to hinge on the experiences and politics of being a young woman in today’s world. In this way, both works seem deeply personal and signal this collective’s gutsy and honest approach to performance.

The first work, Bloom, is directed by Briannah Davis, and features four female dancer-performers Jessie Camilleri-Seeber, Jocelyn Eddie, Olivia Hendry, Georgia Smith. It opens with a scene in which a young woman (Camilleri-Seeber) lies motionless (perhaps dead?), on the floor, in silence. She is attended to by another young woman (Eddie) who kneels beside her, gently “washing” her body with a small spray bottle and cloth.

Conducted in silence, this prolonged introduction is a clever way to both focus and unnerve the audience. As we watch the repeated actions of this quiet purification process, we are compelled to closely consider this young woman’s fate. Then, as the attendant cleanser eventually breaks the silence, we listen to her deliver some beautiful prose that describes in detail the process of seeds becoming flowers, and the power and self-sufficiency of the seed itself – in its containing of everything needed for the oncoming life of the plant.

This text, for me, is the key motif of this work. As the other dancers join the stage and move through a series of choreographic and text-based scenes which frame the young women as both strong and vulnerable, it seems that this seed and flower analogy holds the key to it all.

The strongest parts of this work are those that use dance alone to explore these complex states of being and becoming, with some of the other purely text-based scenes losing the subtleties of the opening. With further development and research, these ideas of the female “becoming” could be communicated with greater clarity and resolve.

Lilly King and Ana Music in ‘No Mandarin’s an Island’. Photo: Minni Karamfiles.

In the second piece, No Mandarin’s an Island by Olivia Hendry, there are similar strengths and weaknesses. Hendry has chosen five female dancers (Jessie Camilleri-Seeber, Jocelyn Eddie, Lilly King, Briannah Davis and Ana Music) to portray her wonderfully pink vision of women’s experiences of solidarity and separateness.

Instead of the flower, Hendry uses water as her central theme. From here, she creates analogies of “swimming without sinking”, “the struggle to come up for breath”, and “speed-swimming towards the winner’s prize”. Again, these poetic motifs are ripe for further exploration, and with more time spent in development they could be directed to more resolved ends.

Overall, this double bill revealed not only the active minds, but the deeply felt performance qualities of these young female artists. The ensemble dance sequences of both pieces were particularly enjoyable to watch, in their reflection of the artists’ imaginative choreography and their sensitive interpretations by the dancers.

For this audience member, the show marked both the beginning and the continuation of a bevy of sharp artistic intentions, and their sharing of these ideas in motion, with us, was a very generous offer.

Pictured top is Georgia Smith (front), with (L-R) Olivia Hendry, Jessie Camilleri-Seeber and Jocelyn Eddie, in ‘Bloom’. Photo: Minni Karamfiles.

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