Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A force to be reckoned with

Review: Momentum Dance, Unbreakable ·
Redmond Theatre, Prendiville Catholic College ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Dance is a young person’s game… or is it? Perth’s Momentum Dance is an ensemble comprised of dancers over 50 years of age. In an industry that has, traditionally, valued youth and athleticism, Momentum Dance asks us to consider instead the history, memories and artistry that an older dancer brings to the stage. Last weekend saw Momentum present its second season, entitled “Unbreakable”; it’s first, “Unstoppable”, was presented a year ago.

Accompanied by charismatic violin-guitar duo, Four on Six, a slide show served to introduce us to the dancers, a mix that includes a few ex-professional dancers, a number of parents and grandparents, a range of careers and  (this drew a few gasps) one dancer 12 weeks post-open-heart surgery.

This was followed by Preludium, choreographed by Richard Cilli to Richard Wagner’s Prelude to Act I of Parsifal, and performed by ten of the Momentum dancers. In contrast with the almost sinister sounding Prelude, Preludium teeters on the edge of absurdity. The work is strongly rooted in gesture; clad in autumnal shades, the dancers repeatedly scoop and drop their arms; clasp their hands as though praying or pleading; present their hands, palms up, perhaps in supplication.

As the music builds to a crescendo, the dancers gather like storm clouds, their arms rippling in the maelstrom. But repeatedly the music skips, the tension is broken and the dancers fall out of character and into the next section. At one point the dancers progress across the stage in a series of dramatic freezes that gradually tip into comical melodrama. That fine line between the serious and silly was trodden with sensitivity and grace by the ten dancers.

In between the two dance works, Four on Six (Gillian Catlow on violin and Charles Hoernermann on electric guitar) performed five songs from their repertoire, ranging from the infectious cheer of Claude Bolling’s “Borsalino” to the bittersweet sounds of Randy Goodum’s “So Soft, Your Goodbye”. Catlow and Hoernermann’s delightully conversational style of playing won over the audience on Sunday afternoon.

Daryl Brandwood's Journeying
A highlight from Daryl Brandwood’s ‘Journeying’: the tender duet performed by Ronnie van den Bergh and Cathy Antulov. Photo Damian Doyle.

Concluding the program was Daryl Brandwood’s Journeying. While I know, because I interviewed Brandwood prior to the show, that the choreographic process for this work made extensive use of the dancers’ memories, Journeying is an abstract work. Clad in diaphanous white, the thirteen dancers, at times,  appear to morph into the projected photographs of a lone tree in an open field topped by a seemingly endless sky, captured at various times of the day and year.

There were many noteworthy performances in this delicate work, but a favourite for me was Mike Makossa’s joyful solo, also appealingly reprised as a trio by Makossa, Liz Cornish and Lisa Hinton. Against a backdrop of afternoon light, this golden moment slips from an overarm cricket bowl into a sequence of skips and jumps that trips over itself to folkloric sounds from Four on Six.

Another highlight was a tender duet performed by Ronnie van den Bergh (whom ballet aficionados will remember from his days as a much-loved principal dancer with West Australian Ballet) and Cathy Antulov. Van den Bergh is a superb partner and with the tree now cloaked in mist, the mood was Romantic as he lifted an arching Antulov aloft with ease. Folding herself in half in a later lift, Antulov, too, demonstrated impressive strength.

Unstoppable? Unbreakable? Absolutely. In a country that has virtually no opportunties for veteran dancers, Momentum Dance is a force to be reckoned with. I look forward to seeing what the company does next.

Pictured top: “The dancers progress across the stage in a series of freezes that start as dramatic and gradually tip into comical melodrama.” Momentum Dance performing Richard Cilli’s Preludium. Photo: Damian Doyle.

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