Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

Witnessing self-definition

Review: Joshua Pether, Jupiter Orbiting ·
PICA, 24 May ·
Review by Patrick Gunasekera ·

Two years since its initial development at PICA for premiere at Next Wave Festival 2018, emerging choreographer/performer Joshua Pether’s experimental solo work Jupiter Orbiting returned to the PICA Performance Space. Seeing the work for the first time, I was captivated by the organic scope of its images and tones. Pether nonchalantly passes between aesthetics of kitsch, surrealism and expressionism, bending and at times erupting the language of the performance. The offbeat array of costuming, props, and other visuals, – including shadows, garish children’s cartoons and the projected words of a probing psychiatrist – build a world simultaneously tender and blunt.

For me, however, the most memorable aspect of Jupiter Orbiting was the painstaking honesty with which Pether examines the light and dark of trauma. As someone with a lived experience of psychosis and dissociation, I began to witness myself in Pether’s performance. This sense of familiarity, of coming home is not something I’ve experience previously in the context of an arts institution.

I have lost count of the number of times I have seen debasing and twisted depictions of myself and other neurodivergent and disabled people on the walls of modern art galleries and on the stages of acclaimed theatres. Every sensationalised misrepresentation of our personhood is another powerful brick laid in the dense systemic social structure of ableism: an insidious kyriarchy excluding myself and too many others from education, work, meaningful relationships, and other kinds of basic agency, especially when combined with inaccessible capitalism (poverty) and traumas of colonial violence.

While non-disabled artists profit from the perceived melodrama of our lived experiences, art institutions construct precarious societies where self-definition and simple cultural safety have been rare finds for me and for other disabled artists, particularly those of us with the added vulnerabilities of being emerging practitioners in the field.

Jupiter Orbiting gives audiences a critical opportunity to witness some of our experiences of neurodivergence, through the vision of a disabled artist telling his own stories. For me, it was astoundingly empowering to see parts of myself acknowledged and given space without censorship or stigma, or indeed any of the prejudice which led to a number of significant others in my life (friends that others could not see or hear) hospitalised and medicated away non-consensually as a minor, because they were deemed no more than hallucinations. These are intense losses I’ve never been permitted to grieve. To observe Pether embodying obsessive compulsiveness as he meticulously arranges plastic toys on a white tabletop, or to see his numbness, alternative realities, and loss of control during the performance was to witness neurodivergence through its own mind, with a brazenly real voice.

Joshua Pether in ‘Jupiter Orbiting’, 2018. Presented at Next Wave Festival. Photo: Adele Wilkes.

Viewing such performance can be difficult. Whilst I watched the sombre, shadowy epilogue of the work with a wide and teary smile, uplifted in my welcoming of past selves, there are many who would prefer to look the other way when faced with such rawness of trauma and profoundly othered experience. Many believe that psychosis and dissociation are best hidden away from view of a public consciousness inundated with fear and tyrannical notions of bodily, racial, and class superiority.

Certainly, many authoritative powers within the arts industry continue to assert that our stories and our art are best handled by non-disabled practitioners, as directors or even as lead artists. The advantage or harmfulness of telling other people’s stories depends on context, but, nonetheless, speaking for or over disabled people from a position of power is an over-represented trope of modern and contemporary art. It perpetuates oppressive cycles of privileging non-disabled voices and marking out images of disabled people through a lens of an intergenerational fear we are very far from unlearning.

My hope is that through witnessing more works like Jupiter Orbiting and other declarations of neurodivergent self-definition in all its plastic and spectral glory, the arts will learn to greet us with love and freedom, granting us the same recognition and value as it does nondisabled artists using our stories. Indeed, Jupiter Orbiting already facilitates space for neurodivergents like myself to honour and witness ourselves without shame, denial or despondency, a space for us to be who we really are and radically dream of healing and understanding together.

Jupiter Orbiting is an ardent and honest investigation of Pether’s realities and impressions of the past, performed with copious life force and brilliant candour. It is an unmatched strength to both the contemporary performance art locale and the ongoing liberation work of the neurodivergent community.

Jupiter Orbiting played PICA 22-25 May 2019.

Pictured top is Joshua Pether in ‘Jupiter Orbiting’, 2018. Presented at Next Wave Festival. Photo: Adele Wilkes.

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The Tap Pack
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

From the iconic to the electric

Review: The Tap Pack ·
Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre 3 July ·
Review by Xan Ashbury ·

While it’s fair to say I am not the The Tap Pack’s target audience, I understand the pull of nostalgia. Why else would I have lovingly crafted a Chet to Chet Mixtape, which alternates tracks by Chet Baker and Chet Faker?

The show bills itself as “picking up where the Rat Pack left off”. The problem is that I grew up with the Brat Pack, rather than the Rat Pack. I’m more likely to read Molly Ringwald’s column in The Guardian and sigh “what a legend”, than swoon over 50s crooners.

Iconic songs by Frank Sinatra et al are punctuated by modern classics. Again, I realised I was out of my depth. While the enthusiastic audience clearly knew the words and enjoyed the witty interplay between old and new, I had to Google key lyrics at interval to identify songs such as “Thinking Out Loud” by someone called Ed Sheeran and “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble…

Fortunately, the performers’ magnetic movements and electric footwork compensated for my lack of pop culture knowledge. The cast (Jordan Pollard, Thomas J Egan, Sean Mulligan and Tom Struik) each have a string of musical theatre, film and TV credits to their name and it’s impossible not to be in awe of their dedication to the art of tap.

The show really had me enthralled when the performers combined the syncopated rhythms of their feet with other forms of percussion, such as drumming onto a large bar at the back of the stage. A truly aural and visual spectacle.

Mulligan’s improvised dances were also a crowd pleaser, as well as his tribute to Ginger Rogers, who, as he reminded the audience, had to do everything backwards and in high heels.

But the star for me was the show’s co-creator, Pollard. From his impersonations of Fred Astaire to a dancing penguin, he somehow manages to appear spontaneous yet superhuman. It is staggering.

My theatre-loving 11-year-old-son accompanied to the show. His verdict? “While I can appreciate their incredible skill, there’s not much of a story.” I think he’s right. The repartee linking the numbers felt a bit forced.

Since seeing the show, though, he’s been dancing around the kitchen with some fancy footwork and enthusiastic finger clicking; I’ve been checking out Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers clips on Youtube.

As Sinatra sang, they can’t take that away from me.

Photo: Daniel Boud

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Dance, News, Performing arts

WIN a double pass to Bangarra Dance Theatre’s ’30 years of sixty five thousand’

We have two double passes to give away to see the matinee performance of “Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand”, 2pm, August 3, at the State Theatre Centre of WA!

Bangarra Dance Theatre celebrates its landmark 30th anniversary season this year with “Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand”; a stunning display of contemporary dance embarking on the company’s largest national tour from June to October.

Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand is a three-part program, combining a re-staging of Frances Rings’ monumental Unaipon (Clan, 2004), Stamping Ground by acclaimed Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, and a powerful collection of dance stories – to make fire – from the company’s 30-year history curated by Bangarra Artistic Director Stephen Page and Head of Design, Jacob Nash.

These works will be performed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across Australia,  who come together as a creative clan to harness a shared spirit and deliver a program representative of the world’s stage and the company’s best work.

To be in the running to win one of two double passes to see the matinee performance of “Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand”, 2pm, August 3, at the State Theatre Centre of WA, simply email hello@seesawmag.com.au with “Bangarra giveaway” in the subject line and your name and phone number in the body of the email.

Limit of one entry per person.

Deadline for entries: C.O.B Thursday 25 July. Winners will be notified Friday 26 July.

 

“Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand” plays the State Theatre Centre of WA July 21-August 3.

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Matej Perunicic and Nikki Blain in Candice Adea's work p as part of Genesis 2019. Photo by Sergey Pevnev
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Style in the studio

Review: West Australian Ballet, “Genesis” ·
West Australian Ballet Centre, 27 June ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Comprised of eight short pieces, West Australian Ballet’s 2019 “Genesis” program is relatively short and pleasingly snappy. Presented annually, the formula of dancer-choreographed works performed in the company’s own studio concludes with a small twist in this iteration; the final work, Presley Suite, is by WAB’s ballet master, Craig Lord-Sole… but more about that later.

It must be said that I am a huge fan of the “Genesis” season. There’s a physicality we witness watching dancers in a studio setting that is lost in the context of a theatre. The proximity amplifies the experience, whether it’s the athleticism of Matthew Lehmann’s Fermi Paradox, the sensuality of Sara Ouwendyk’s Simul Perfectus, the clean and graceful lines of Claire Voss’s Beyond what really matters… Ode to Marie Jeanne and Kirsty Clarke’s when the bough breaks or the moodiness of Jack Whiter’s Prelude.

As choreographer Candice Adea remarked in the Q&A that followed opening night, there’s also something invigorating about seeing the dancers take on styles, shapes and lines beyond the company’s usual repertoire. Adea herself reveals a quirky sense of humour in her work p; interspersing an otherwise serious work with a hunched and undulating trio, and a lilting, limping one-pointe-shoe-one-pump interlude.

The comic highlight (and an audience favourite on opening night) is Adam Alzaim’s Cha cha cha du loup, a duet performed with crisp attack and irrepressible charm by Melissa Boniface and Alzaim himself.

And then there is Craig Lord-Sole’s Presley Suite, a tender love story framed by rock ‘n’ roll. Though I’ve seen male duos aplenty, I can’t recall ever having seen one about a couple. It was moving and refreshing to finally see a same-sex relationship take centre stage.

Whether you’re a long term ballet fan, new to the form, or in between, I highly recommend snaffling a ticket to this studio season.

“Genesis” runs until July 6.

Pictured top are Matej Perunicic and Nikki Blain in Candice Adea’s ‘p’. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

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Men jumping in the air
Calendar, Dance, July 19, Music, Performing arts

Dance, Music: The Tap Pack

2 – 6 July @ Various venues ·
Albany, Bunbury, Mandurah, Perth ·
Presented by The Tap Pack in association with
SK Entertainment ·

They sing. They dance. They joke. This is Old School cool from the New Kings of Swing. Following sold-out houses in London, Edinburgh, Beijing, Berlin, and fresh from sold out shows at The Sydney Opera House, Australia’s newest and hottest tap dance sensation, The Tap Pack bring their high energy, tap comedy show tour to WA from 2 July.

Picking up where The Rat Pack left off, the Tap Pack conjure up a modern twist to the crooners and artists from the 50s through to the noughties! Featuring songs from Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr to Sheeran, Bublé and Beyonce, The Tap Pack mix slick humour, high energy entertainment and world class tap dance.

With dazzling performances on stage, dressed in slick suits and equipped with sharp wit, The Tap Pack is a highly entertaining act featuring some of Australia’s finest tap dancing performers tapping up a storm.

Starring a rotating cast of Australia’s finest and most distinguished dancers and singers, The Tap Pack cast lists credits such as West Side Story, Anything Goes, Singin’ in the Rain, Fame The Musical, The Great Gatsby, Jersey Boys, Legally Blonde, Saturday Night Fever and The Boy From Oz to name just a few few. They bring a new, invigorating energy to a timeless style that the whole family can enjoy.

More info
W:  www.thetappack.com
E:   ali@limelightconsulting.com.au

Pictured: The Tap Pack

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Black and white image of male dancer
August 19, Calendar, Dance, Performing arts

Dance: International Youth Ballet Gala

14 August @ Crown Theatre, Perth ·
Presented by Youth Ballet WA ·

A one-night fundraising event, showcasing seven of the finest semi-professional male youth dancers from world-class ballet schools in Europe and the United Kingdom including: Vaganova Ballet Academy Russia, Palucca University of Dance Dresden, The English National Ballet London and more!

The aim of the I.Y.B.G is to raise much needed funds to support Youth Ballet WA’s scholarship fund, which provides financial support for young WA dancers who demonstrate potential for future careers in the world of dance.

More info:
www.youthballetwa.org.au/home/

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August 19, Calendar, Dance, July 19, Performing arts

Dance: Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand

31 Jul – 3 Aug @ State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by Bangarra Dance Theatre ·

Bangarra Dance Theatre celebrates its landmark 30th anniversary season this year with Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand; a stunning display of contemporary dance embarking on the company’s largest national tour from June to October.

Bangarra: 30 years of sixty five thousand is a three-part program, combining a re-staging of Frances Rings’ monumental Unaipon (Clan, 2004), Stamping Ground by acclaimed Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, and a powerful collection of dance stories – to make fire – from the company’s 30-year history curated by Bangarra Artistic Director Stephen Page and Head of Design, Jacob Nash.

These works will be performed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from across Australia,  who come together as a creative clan to harness a shared spirit and deliver a program representative of the world’s stage and the company’s best work.

More info:
www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/bangarra-30-years-of-sixty-five-thousand/

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

The techno-digital sublime

Review: Rachel Arianne Ogle, i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night ·
PICA, 5 June ·
Review by Jonathan W. Marshall ·

Rachel Arianne Ogle’s superb precipice concludes with a reveal at the back of the darkened stage, where a curtain draws open to show an intensely glowing, curved wall situated at the rear of a small box, within which stands a sun-struck dancer. i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night takes this image and turns it into a short, stand-alone performance installation, with glitchie live electronic music from Luke Smiles and a blindingly purist lighting design and luminescent projections from Benjamin Cisterne.

Smiles, Ogle and Cisterne build here on the optical games and devices that immediately preceded cinema proper, such as the spinning, slotted zoetrope, or the carefully lit and crafted panoramas and moving dioramas of the nineteenth century. Cisterne has previously experimented with patterned moiré effects in lighting with his design for Sydney Dance Company’s 2 One Another (2012). Robin Fox’s use of digital projection and intense, immersive digital noise for Chunky Move is clearly another influence (Smiles previously danced with Chunky Move), as is, presumably, the regular to DarkMofo and the Melbourne Festival, Ryoji Ikeda, with his supra-minimal techno and lighting works for dance and installation. The strongest resonance, though, is with the landmark Morphia series, which dancer Helen Herbertson created with designer Ben Cobham of Bluebottle in the early 2000s, featuring an often agitated, naked Herbertson suspended in a blacker than black space, housed in a glowing white box.

Photo: Mick Bello

The movement of i have loved the stars too fondly is, however, more minimal than Herbertson’s intimate gestures. Halfway through i have loved the stars too fondly, there is a blink-and-you-miss it section in which Ogle briefly tilts onto an extreme angle and folds herself onto the floor, legs protruding above her, whilst lit by a totalising, white wash. Elsewhere she ever-so-unsteadily walks slowly and with very small steps down the centre line from the back of to the front and then back again. She is, therefore, more object than dancer, more a sculpture than a human.

The sheer over-stimulation of optical and aural signals means that the audience’s perception itself begins to warp (as in a zoetrope or Ikeda’s installations). As the sound pummels us (featuring, for a period, some of the most intense bass thuds I have heard outside of the work of Fox or Decibel), and as the light excoriates Ogle from behind, there are times where it seems she may be perhaps mouthing a silent cry. But the solarisation about her head and shoulders, and the silhouette effect it produces, is such that one cannot be certain.

The framing of the performer within i have loved the stars too fondly, therefore, echoes the work of performance artist Stelarc, who insists on calling himself “the body,” signalling his status an entirely impersonal, fleshy sensate unit sewn into a non-human, technological system. The effect, then, is that the body itself is almost blown apart, shattered and digitised (think the origin of Dr Manhattan in Watchmen). This is the techno-digital sublime in the extreme, producing a mildly terrifying feeling of euphoria and amazement. In the most impressive visual effect within the production, when Ogle stands at the front of the stage, the rapid shifts in the colour and directionality of the light create the illusion of up to six or eight shadowy figures, arrayed in a semi-circle before us, each swimming into existence as its predecessor is blown away by the lighting.

This effect is staged early in the piece, and to some degree the dramaturgy has nowhere else to go. The distorted white dots on the back wall are patterned according to random transmissions picked up while the show is in progress. As Ogle moves away from us in this slightly more forgiving light-and-sound world, one is tempted to read this as a return of the human after its technological auto-da-fé.

But closure is denied and she keeps her back to us. The conclusion seems to arise out of its duration more than it does out of any musical or choreographic evolution per se. While it seemed a shame to end on a whimper rather than a bang, precipice and i have loved the stars represent the sort of work which drew me to dance in the first place: austere, formal, painstaking, and scenographically brilliant – two of the best movement works of 2019.

i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night runs until June 8.

Read a Q&A with Rachel Arianne Ogle.

Pictured top is Rachel Arianne Ogle in “i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night”. Photo: Mick Bello.

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Calendar, Dance, June 19, Performing arts

Dance: Unmanned

8-9 June @ Redmond Theatre, Prendiville Catholic College, Ocean Reef ·
Presented by Momentum Dance ·

Temporarily unmanned due to injury and travel plans, it’s the Momentum Dance women’s turn to shine. New works by choreographers Alice Lee Holland and Claudia Alessi complete the feminine touch. Our 3rd season highlights disconnection, touch and reconnection, playful remembering, and individual interpretation of Task- based choreography. 
Join us in the foyer afterwards where you can purchase drinks and nibbles and chat with the stars of the show.

Bookings: https://www.trybooking.com

More info: www.facebook.com

Photo: Damian Doyle

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Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

An exhilarating ride

Review: Rachel Arianne Ogle, precipice ·
Studio Underground, State Theatre of WA, 29 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Silence.
Two thin beams of light mark the stage with a giant “x”. A dancer in each corner.
Standing. Waiting.

From the opening moments of precipice, local independent choreographer Rachel Arianne Ogle places the viewer on edge. The prolonged silence at the start of the piece – before two of the four dancers tip off-balance into a run – sets the scene for a work in which movement, light and sound unite to repeatedly push the dancers and, by extension, the audience to that edge… to the precipice.

It’s a wild ride; visceral and invigorating. Though the work is abstract, there are clear arcs – sensual rather than narrative. And though precipice is unquestionably a contemporary dance work – the movement is often athletic in that way that makes you draw your breath sharply – it’s the deft interweaving of the choreography with the lighting and visual design by Benjamin Cisterne and score/soundscape by Luke Smiles that makes the ride feel so immersive.

Niharika Senapati and Tyrone Robinson in the 2014 season of 'precipice'..
The female dancers become perilous dolls: Niharika Senapati and Tyrone Robinson in the 2014 season of ‘precipice’.. Photo: Traianos Pakioufakis.

And finally, though it is designed around ramping up the senses, there is a poetic quality that infiltrates precipice. Now the stage is sliced in two by one of those beams of light from the opening. Against a swathe of ghostly electronic sounds, we see a dancer (the wonderful Tyrone Robinson) twisting, falling, staggering, limping. On the other side of the line, the remaining three dancers (Niharika Senapati, Yilin Kong and Linton Aberle) move through a series of supine tilts, rolls and suspensions that trace circular patterns on the floor and through the air.

Those circular patterns repeat throughout; we see them again as the two female dancers move through balances in which their legs and arms bring to mind the hands of a clock marching endlessly through time.

Though it’s hard to pick favourite sections (there are many), the synchronised male-female duos are a highlight. Apparently immobile, the female dancers become perilous dolls, to be manipulated by the male dancers who diligently insert themselves between the women and the floor. This morphs into a dance of fanning and falling counterbalances as the lighting gently oscillates between warmth and cool. The strength and focus required to pull off this movement material is considerable and on opening night, Aberle, Kong, Robinson and Senapati ensured this section had the audience mesmerised.

Another memorable movement phrase sees the dancers lie across one another as though their bodies have been plaited. To a soundscape of lightly pattering beats interspersed with electronic surges, a pattern of planks and folds ripples through the quartet; a strange caterpillar labouring through a field of light circles.

Storm Helmore, Tyrone Robinson, Imanuel Dado and Niharika Senapati in the 2014 season of 'precipice. Photo: Traianos Pakioufakis
Though the work is abstract, there are clear arcs: Storm Helmore, Tyrone Robinson, Imanuel Dado and Niharika Senapati in the 2014 season of ‘precipice. Photo: Traianos Pakioufakis

There is relatively little to separate audience and performer at the Studio Underground and in the penultimate scenes of precipice, the energy from the stage feels encompassing. Engine-like noises become increasingly loud and urgent as the dancers variously move as one, separate, pause, and explode into the space. The tension builds and builds until, with a blinding flash of light, it hits an almost unbearable peak. No spoilers – you’ll have to see the show to find out what happens next.

As aforementioned precipice depends heavily on the physical and mental discipline of its dancers. On opening night Aberle, Kong, Robinson and Senapati gave an outstanding performance.

This is not precipice’s first outing. The work was originally presented in the same theatre in 2014. As Ogle notes, it is rare that independent work is granted a second outing. Watching precipice for a second time, it’s easy to see why the State Theatre Centre of WA and Perth Theatre Trust chose to break with tradition and program this work.

Together with her creative team, Ogle has made a work that is exhilarating.

precipice plays the Studio Underground until June 1.

The sequel to precipice, i have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night, plays PICA, June 5-8.

Read a Q&A with Rachel Arianne Ogle about the two works here.

Pictured top is a scene from the 2014 season of ‘precipice’. Photo: Traianos Pakioufakis.

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