Dance, Music, News, Performing arts

Local superhero

Review: Laura Boynes, Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long, ‘Wonder Woman’ ·
State Theatre Centre of WA, 28 August ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

The entrance for “Wonder Woman” is door 2 of the Heath Ledger Theatre but instead of heading into the auditorium we are ushered backstage, into a space it takes me a moment to recognise as the theatre stage. It’s a fitting start to a show that gently subverts our expectations of what a “wonder woman” might be.

A program of two solo works, the seeds for “Wonder Woman” were sown when local dance artist Laura Boynes commissioned Sydney-based choreographers Julie-Anne Long and Adelina Larsson to each create a solo for her, based on the catalyst: “Supposing feminism was a superhero…”

Though Boynes explains in her program notes that she chose the two choreographers for their thematic similarities (amongst other things), their resulting solos are vastly different in style and dynamic. The lynch pin is the charismatic and versatile Boynes.

Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick.
Arms outstretched: Laura Boynes in Adelina Larsson’s ‘Rite II: Solo”. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Long’s work, To Be Honest: a girl’s own collection of unconfirmed tales, is a gorgeous mash-up of fact and fiction, movement and story-telling, ballet and life. Long has capitalised on Boynes’ off-beat sense of humour and her hand-flapping entry, clad an out-sized dressing gown-cum-doona and accompanied by the “Aurora Variation” from Coppelia, sets the tone for the work.

What follows is a series of anecdotes about growing up, about being a dancer, about mothers, about not (yet?) being a mother, about saying “fuck you” (or not)… interwoven with more extracts from Coppelia and Boynes’ loose-limbed, joyous interpretation of that music. There are many layers; of costume (stylishly designed by Bruce McKinven) and of stories. Some bits ring true, and some bits are tongue-in-cheek… but can we be sure which is which? Long’s superhero finds her strength in the multiplicity of the tales she tells, and in keeping us guessing.

Laura Boynes performing Wonder Woman
A visceral work: Laura Boynes in Adelina Larsson’s ‘Rite II: Solo’. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

In stark contrast, Adelina Larsson’s Rite II: Solo is a visceral work, abstract and introverted. Composed by Shoeb Ahmad (who mixes and loops pre-recorded samples live), the vocal score is wordless; a ghostly melange of sharp sips of air, of calls and keens, of sobs. Though we hear Boynes talk about being a dancer in Long’s work, it’s here that we experience the intensity of what that means.

In a twilight world (designed by Chris Donnelly) we see Boynes caress her own limbs, as though washing them clean. Twitches and shudders punctuate movement that is otherwise fluid, rolling and rippling through space. With her hands clasped behind her head, or thrust in her pockets, her hips lead the way. Arms outstretched she claps; the sound cracks and reverberates. The female super-power in Larsson’s solo is found in everything that is non-verbal.

Boynes is a compelling performer and the emotional range that she demonstrates in this program is impressive. Though it’s not her intention, she is the Wonder Woman of the title. Make sure you see her in action.

‘Wonder Woman’ runs until August 31.

Read a Q&A with Laura Boynes here.

Pictured top is Laura Boynes in “To Be Honest: a girl’s own collection of unconfirmed takes”, by Julie-Anne Long. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

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Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick
Dance, Features, News, Performing arts

An everyday super (s)hero

“Imagine if feminism was a super hero.”

That’s what local dance artist Laura Boynes is asking of audiences this month, when she presents and performs Wonder Woman, a double bill of solo dance works.

It’s the recent groundswell of support for women’s rights – in the form of international and national women’s marches, as well as the #metoo and Time’s Up campaigns – that initially moved Boynes to commission NSW-based choreographers Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long to create the solos.

In this Q&A with Nina Levy, Laura spills the beans about making Wonder Woman.

‘What does an everyday superhero looks like?’ asks Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

Nina Levy: Why did you choose to name your show for Wonder Woman?
Laura Boynes: Wonder Woman seemed like a fitting title as one of the first provocations I commissioned the choreographers with was “imagine if feminism was a superhero” and whether people believe Wonder Woman is a feminist icon or failure she remains a feminist symbol 75 years after her creation. Whilst I am not portraying Wonder Woman the character, the work speaks to the idea that potentially there is a “Shero” within all women. What does an everyday superhero look like?

NL: There’s no questioning the timeliness and relevance of this work… but what inspired you to commission the two solos that comprise Wonder Woman?
LB: Firstly, I attended a symposium in 2016 Fremantle titled “we are not dead yet” which spoke about gender and age dynamics within contemporary arts practice and in particular invisibility of the older female artist. It was an incredibly inspiring lecture series and sparked a passion in me to respond to some of these themes by creating a new work. Secondly, a personal need to push my own practice as a performer by working with two artists I hadn’t previously worked with in a new format and the urge to take on the challenge of a full length solo work.

NL: Originally you were motivated by campaigns such as #metoo and Time’s Up. How has Wonder Woman evolved from this starting point?
LB: There is no doubt that #metoo and Time’s Up were the catalyst for Wonder Woman. While the issues are still relevant, a few years have passed since these political movements. The works we have ended up creating don’t deal directly with these events and thankfully I don’t have a personal #metoo story to uncover, however there is an undertone in what has become a semi-autobiographical and empowering work.

Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick.
‘Movement can say a multitude of things that words cannot.’ – Laura Boynes at Dance Massive’s Open Studio. Photo: Ausdance Vic.

NL: The choreographers you commissioned to create the solos are Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long. What drew you to those two dance artists?
LB: I chose these women for their individuality, and the choreographic aesthetic and thematic similarities in their prior bodies of work.

I had worked with Adelina in the past but never in this capacity. I had always been interested in her choreographic practice based, which is based heavily in improvisation, and also her commitment to larger social/political causes like BighART, where she works as a choreographer.

I met Julie-Anne in 2008 in a dance film lab and have been following her work every since. Julie-Anne has an extensive body of work spanning over many years. Part social/political commentary and part autobiographical, her work is clever, humorous and always has something to say. It was learning about her 2007 work The Invisibility Project that really led me to approach her for this project, along with a desire for cross-generational exchange.

NL: What does dance/dance theatre provide, in terms of being able to explore issues relating to women’s rights and feminism, that other art-forms don’t?
LB: I believe movement can say a multitude of things that words cannot, which is why I love this art form. Contemporary dance allows a viewer time and space to think and project their own thoughts onto what they are watching. Each audience member has a uniquely different experience of a dance work and that is why it is such a subjective form.

NL: What do you hope people will take away from Wonder Woman?
LB: My desire is for the audience to take away a sense of empowerment from Wonder Woman regardless of their gender. I want us to celebrate our strengths and flaws as humans and to feel a sense of community in knowing that others share the same experiences.

 Wonder Woman plays the State Theatre Centre of WA, August 28-31.

Read Seesaw’s review of Wonder Woman.

Laura Boynes eating a loaf of bread.
Laura Boynes. Photo: Matt Cornell.

Laura Boynes is an independent dance artist based in Perth. For the last 11 years, Laura has worked professionally as a performer, and has been creating her own work for about 7 years. Her work to date explores social, political and environmental concepts for theatre, gallery and site-specific spaces. She uses performance as a tool to inspire critical thought and reflection on the contemporary world.

As a dancer Laura has worked nationally and internationally in dance, theatre, experimental music, site-specific and opera works. What she enjoys most is taking on a performance challenge and collaborating with a choreographer to realise their vision.

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Woman in blue snowsuit with long grey hair with background of tin foil
August 19, Calendar, Dance, Featured, Performing arts

Dance: Wonder Woman

28 – 31 August @ Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Presented by State Theatre Centre of WA and Laura Boynes ·

Imagine feminism was a superhero.
Imagine laughing together with the women of the world.
Wonder Woman is here. Time is up.

Provocative and physical, Wonder Woman unearths the everyday superhero and delivers a solid punch to the gut. A double bill of dance works choreographed by NSW artists Adelina Larsson and Julie-Anne Long in collaboration with WA performer Laura Boynes, this is an exposing, funny and intimate show that will have you furiously nodding in agreement and shouting me too.

“Laura Boynes brought her powerful presence… characteristically self aware, even self-deprecating, but always exuding a certain magnetism that leaves you unable to blink.” – Yolande Norris BMA

More info:
www.ptt.wa.gov.au/venues/state-theatre-centre-of-wa/whats-on/wonder-woman/

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the honeymoon suite
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

A trip into retro-wonderland

Fringe World review: The Honeymoon Suite by Bernadette Lewis ·
Paper Mountain gallery, 1 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·

Entering the Paper Mountain gallery space to see Bernadette Lewis’s The Honeymoon Suite, I come upon two be-sequinned dancers lying entwined, pretzel-like, around one another. Part-performance, part installation, two gallery walls feature luminous, blue-hued stills of the dancers, by photographer Emma Fishwick. The other two display an assortment of objects united by pinkness; flowers, hand-weights, slippers, ice cream cones, puzzle pieces.

The gallery, which is unusually long and narrow for a dance performance space, is mostly taken up by a rubber dance floor; the audience hovers at its edge, bathed in the subtle rosy glow that illuminates the show as a whole. There’s a gently 80s vibe permeating the room; the sequins, the neon sign, the background pop music, the musk sticks on offer.

The segue between before-the-show and the-show-has-definitely-started is subtle, appropriately, perhaps, for a work that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Musically the vibe hovers somewhere between lounge and the aforementioned 80s pop, with a handful of electronica thrown in for good measure.

Against this soundscape the movement teeters between sensual and silly, occasionally tipping into sinister. Now the dancers (Laura Boynes and Tanya Brown) recline like glamorous 50s film stars, their long hair flung back, their fingers holding invisible cigarettes aloft. Now they traverse the width of the performance space on their bottoms, hips shifting in a comical race to the end. Now they become entangled as they wrestle, more foes than friends. Boynes and Brown are gorgeous to watch as they morph, with careless ease, through the many moods of this work.

A fabulously kooky scene sees the dancers become a moving, ice-cream eating sculpture. Another involves climbing the walls, hanging from the window frames and Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

Without giving too much away, the bouncing grand finale is highly satisfying, although as one of the audience members hauled (reluctantly) on stage, the closing moments felt anti-climactic. Aside from my aversion to audience participation, I would have liked to have seen this entertaining concept further developed.

Nonetheless, The Honeymoon Suite is trip into a retro-wonderland. It’s well worth 30 minutes of your time.

‘The Honeymoon Suite’ plays Paper Mountain gallery until February 5 and the installation may be viewed during gallery opening hours (9.30am-5pm).

Pictured top: One of the images on display as part of the installation/performance. Pictured: Laura Boynes. Photo: Emma Fishwick.

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