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A mixed bag of Short Cuts

Review: STRUT dance “Short Cuts, Program A” ·
King Street Arts Centre, June 14 ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·

If you’re not familiar with contemporary dance, I’d recommend the hot bath strategy – one toe at a time until you’re fully in.  STRUT dance’s “Short Cuts” is an annual program of curated short works that presents an easy way to get better acquainted with this often misunderstood discipline.  It’s important to note that these works are essentially in draft form and created in a very short amount of time – you’re getting raw ideas, some of which warrant further exploration, some of which do not.

Last Thursday an enthusiastic throng packed into one of the studios at King Street Arts Centre to check out the fare on offer.  It was an unusually lengthy program, compared to the traditional Short Cuts hour-long show and comprised nine pieces.  The first, Dance, Quiet Riot was choreographed by Emma Fishwick, an associate artist with CO3 Australia.  Fishwick is a multidisciplinary artist with a strong visual sense on effective display here.  Two dancers performed elegant, synchronized phrases in the centre of the square stage, while four others formed a sombre perimeter.  All were wreathed in sheer fabric – a bold choice for an all-female work.  Can the work transcend the spectacle of the naked form or is it more of a distraction?  The dance was executed with a gorgeous, rolling grace, but if I’m perfectly honest, I felt a bit ashamed of my inability not to be distracted by so many naked breasts.  But even my shortcomings as a viewer could not detract from the ability showcased – Fishwick has a clear vision, refreshing in its confidence.

Another highlight of the program was a trio of brief works curated by a key choreographer of the Perth independent scene, Bernadette Lewis.  The first, Miss Where are My Pills, was choreographed and performed by Natalie Allen with Lewis also performing.  Allen, the recipient of a bagful of awards, is an insane dancer to watch.  Her combination of precision, energy and frenzied bustle is just extraordinary.  This work was no exception and the complementary style of Lewis provided an additional measure of inspired looseness – Lewis has a gift for looking like she’s having so much fun while she dances.

Following this was my choice of the evening – Miss Fury choreographed by Laura Boynes and performed by the choreographer and Lewis.  I’m not sure whether it’s the subversion of the “seriousness” of contemporary dance, or if it’s just because I love a good laugh, but I am a total sucker for dance with a sense of humour.  Boynes and Lewis stroll onstage, mouthing pre-recorded words of a conversation that tackles tropes of modern feminism with a rare hilarity.  Boynes is creating a strong reputation for herself as a maker of politically charged art, yet she has a lightness of touch that is truly inspired.  The duo slip into dance – inventive hand movement here warrants special note – and as strains from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly swell, together they seal a perfect package of art and humour cut through with politics.

Not every idea was a winner.  Joshua Pether’s Water Stories was a tentative work, big on ideas but scant on the dance.  And while there was a lot of heart in Ellen-Hope Thomson’s Moth, the execution missed the mark.  Conversely, The Sessions provided another blistering display of Natalie Allen’s talents and when coupled with Samuel Harnett-Welk’s technical prowess, one could only marvel at the skill evident, if not anything resembling meaning.

At the conclusion of the program, STRUT’s Paul Selwyn Norton asked the audience to vote for which work deserved the extra time and funding to be further developed.  With half the slate of works worthy of further exploration, Selwyn Norton and his team are spoiled for choice – and that was only Thursday night.  We’ll see the results of the voting as part of the upcoming MoveMe Festival later in the year.

For more info head to: www.strutdance.org.au

Photo: Simon Pynt.