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