Review: Co:3’s Act-Belong-Commit Co:Youth Ensemble, “Project Next 2019” ·
All Saints College – Centre for Performing Arts, 20 July ·
Review by Lauren Catellani ·
“Project Next 2019”, by Co:3 Australia’s Youth Ensemble, allows audiences the chance to ponder art in both its visual and performing states. An annual offering by the youth wing of WA’s flagship contemporary dance company, this year’s incarnation of “Project Next” is inspired by time spent at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. With guidance from industry professionals Laura Boynes, Brooke Leeder and Scott Elstermann, the young dancers delve into their own experiences of viewing and understanding art.
Presented in multiple segments, the work sees the dancers employ their bodies to transform into works of art while also embodying the act of perceiving, feeling and experiencing art work. They skim the surface of related concepts such as observing and being observed, finding strategies that can be used to direct focus, investigating the ways our increased use of technology has changed the way we view art, and exploring ways to reimagine an artwork in a live performance setting. Each section of the work generally provides a simple but nonetheless effective examination of the concept.
A section where an art work is set up in the centre of the space to be viewed, for example, sees a group of dancers gather around. As they try to get a good picture with their imaginary phones, they slowly suffocate the work. This image calls into question the role that our phone cameras play in our engagement with art, perhaps suggesting that we should allow the experience of viewing art to remain ephemeral.
Cardboard boxes and handheld lights are cleverly and thought-provokingly utilised to explore the tools artists use to position viewers’ focus, and distort or conceal parts of the body. A particularly compelling section is performed by the oldest group of dancers, who use the hand-held lights to reveal certain parts of their bodies in static positions. As they begin to engage in full body movement, this becomes more complex; images become blurred as bodies merge and dissolve into the the dark space.
The ensemble is a well-connected and energetic group of dancers and, while the age groups are visibly separated by different costume designs and choreographic sections, the way the pieces are knitted together ensures that the work, as a whole, feels seamless.
All of the dancers whether they are 7 or 16 have the opportunity and the confidence to share their individual movement qualities and personalities. There was, evidently, space within the choreographic process for the young performers to explore their own creativity; a credit to their choreographic leaders Boynes, Leeder and Elstermann. It was most enjoyable to see the level of commitment to the work’s intention, both physically and emotionally, from all of the dancers no matter what their age.
“Project Next” is an annual event. This year’s performance played July 19-20. Find out more about the Act-Belong-Commit Co:Youth Ensemble on the Co3 Australia website.
Pictured top: The ensemble’s commitment was evident throughout. Photo: Stefan Gosatti.