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.
11 – 13 April @ Studio 3, King Street Arts Centre ·
Presented by STRUT Dance ·
STRUT Dance presents its annual season of diverse new short works from independent WA choreographers. From established artists to new graduates, Short Cuts provides a snapshot of the huge variety of contemporary dance happening right here in WA. Armed with just 20 hours of studio time, artists make a daring leap into the unknown and kick start a new idea.Many a bold dance work has found its first footing in Short Cuts, so step inside the King St Arts Centre and witness those new sparks fly…
Presented in an intimate studio setting, the program showcases 15 new short works from WA choreographers/choreographic teams, split into two programs (each performed twice).
Thu 11 April – 7pm
Sat 13 April – 5pm
Choreographers: Dean-Ryan Lincoln, Jocelyn Eddie & Jessie Camilleri-Seeber, Kynan Hughes & Bridget Le May, Kimberley Parkin, May Greenberg, Mitchell Harvey and Russell Thorpe
Fri 12 April – 7pm
Sat 13 April – 7pm
Choreographers: Azariah Felton, Bethany Reece & Aimee Sadler, Hannah Phillips, Mel Tan & Logan Ringshaw, Rikki Bremner, Scott Galbraith, Scott Ewen and Talitha Maslin
Perth Festival review: STRUT Dance and Maxine Doyle with Tura New Music: Sunset ·
Sunset Heritage Precinct, 7 February ·
Special guest review by WAAPA 2018 graduate Giorgia Schijf* ·
The totality of the Sunset experience begins from your commute to the unique site, winding through Perth’s ostentatious Western suburbs, overlooking the glimmering Swan River. The luxurious mansions decorating the neighbourhood are juxtaposed by the abandoned Sunset Old Men’s Home, where this magically unsettling dance theatre piece lives.
Artistic director of Sunset Maxine Doyle was inspired by the empty, silent space of the Sunset Heritage Precinct. She saw a place waiting to be filled with the voices of its past, saying, “Art brings those buildings to life and diffuses it with…a new beginning.”
Upon arrival, a man in a tuxedo greets you with the sombre sound of a violin. You file into the main location of the century-old building, red dirt spilling out of the walls; dust diffusing into the air, leaving a mysterious haze. You proceed into an old dining hall lined by muted blue and yellow walls; a stage, a canteen and a pile of chairs outline the space. This is where majority of the performance unfolds.
A pleasant nurse dressed in whites (Bernadette Lewis) offers the audience tea and biscuits upon arrival, I accept the offer. The slightly cold tea is unsettling, a perfect match to the ominous climate of the room.
Lines are blurred between performer and audience from the start and viewers indulge in a 360-degree experience. The audience is entertained by an array of characters from different times and places. The STRUT dancers masterfully inhabit the distinctive personas, all united by the universal feeling of loss.
A dance begins upon the old-school stage, of a young girl prancing and twirling as if stuck in a dream. Nimble dancer Viola Iida embodies the spirit of a lost daughter, who is summoned by a veiled, mysterious woman, her malevolent presence central to the disturbing nature of the piece.
Now, an imagined resident of the Sunset sanctuary, named Alfred Ganz and played by Humphrey Bower, recites a poem. His memories are the soundscape for a weeping mother in black (Natalie Allen). As she stumbles at the loss of her child, her sense of grief is vivid and poignant.
Her affliction follows her into a solo where she flails and flies across a wall lined in windows. Luminescent vignettes of the remaining characters glide behind the glass, like moving Renaissance paintings. The windows are now a portal between the living and the dead, as figures fly in and out of the frames to try and save Allen from her harrowing flounder. It’s beautifully evocative image.
The ghostly figures infiltrate the space as the energy of the piece crescendos; a miniature live orchestra is revealed and provides a stirring soundscape. Dancers circulate the room, relentlessly falling, throwing their bodies towards each other.
A procession of dancers emerges calmly amongst the virtuosic movement. One by one, each dancer stares deep into the eyes of each audience member, sharing their grief through the intimate gaze.
Guided by the haunting voice of lead vocalist (and composer/sound designer) Rachael Dease, the piece ends outside, amongst a garden of lights. The audience finishes gazing up at the performers, who stand on a hill, staring longingly at the river. I was so transfixed by my surroundings that I couldn’t believe the show was over.
The perfect marriage of dance, design and music transported me to another time and place, a place that smelt of tears, sounded of breaking hearts and was filled with spirits united by love and loss.
* Giorgia Schijf is a 2018 WAAPA Dance graduate and the winner of the WAAPA Dance Prize for the most outstanding written review of a dance performance, 2018. This is a special award for the WAAPA dance student who made the most outstanding contribution to the field of dance criticism throughout their studies at WAAPA. The award, made possible by Seesaw Magazine and Perth Festival, allows the award winner to review a 2019 Perth Festival dance work, and have that review published in Seesaw Magazine.
Perth Festival review: STRUT Dance and Maxine Doyle with Tura New Music, Sunset ·
Sunset Heritage Precinct, 7 February ·
Review by Nina Levy ·
The world of Maxine Doyle’s dance theatre work Sunset at first seems benign. On arrival, we are instructed to “follow the fairy lights” to a charmingly makeshift reception area, complete with bar and outdoor tables. A violinist (Brian Kruger) plays and as he wends his way towards one of the dilapidated old buildings that make up the Sunset Heritage Precinct, we follow him, Pied Piper style. So far, so whimsical… but once we are ushered inside, it’s a different story.
UK-based Doyle, who has collaborated with WA’s STRUT Dance to create Sunset, is renowned for her immersive theatre works. True to form, there’s a sense of falling down the rabbit hole as we cross the threshold of the now-decommissioned Sunset hospital. We are shepherded through to the performance space, passing rooms that are awash with red dirt – “I almost expect a body to be buried inside,” whispers my plus one – before arriving in a large hall, scattered haphazardly with vintage metal chairs on which we may sit.
Ghost-like, a dozen or so characters waft and wander amongst us, a white uniformed nurse, a glitter-gilded man, a stumbling drunk, a black clad glamour-girl. Accompanied by a string quartet playing original compositions by Rachael Dease, vignettes happen in various locations, so that we’re constantly swivelling to see the next instalment. At first the atmosphere is Tim Burton-esque, funny with a strong dash of spooky to keep you on your toes. On the stage, a dancer (Viola Iida) performs a balletic solo with a mini-corps (corpse?) of three skeletons. Behind the kitchen counter, a manic cook (Timothy Green) prepares a cake, as dancers’ limbs slip and slide in and out of view.
Amidst the audience, the one named character, Alfred Ganz (Humphrey Bower), recites heavily accented poetry and reminisces about days past. The mood shifts and saddens as ghosts from the past seem to rise and envelop us. The string score is at once poignant and discomforting. At the moonlit windows, figures creep, collapse and recover in a sculptural and spectral parade. Drums sound from unseen speakers – it’s as though the rafters of the building are rumbling. Even when the characters unite for a joyous folk-style romp, it’s undercut by the minor key mournfulness of the string quartet.
Rachael Dease’s rich and haunting vocals are key in creating the sense of otherworldliness that pervades this work. Brendan Hanson’s voice, in contrast, brings warmth and nostalgia to the proceedings. The pair’s final, plaintive duet is achingly beautiful and a highlight of the evening. Dease is to be congratulated on her evocative score (which I would purchase, should a recording be made, hint hint) and sound design.
This work is beautifully and sensitively performed by the cast of twelve dancers and actors, and five musicians, and there are numerous moments that could be named as stand outs. In particular, though, Natalie Allen’s brief whirling solo had a bird-like intensity that was compelling, while Sarah Mealor was spectral in hers, a dark wraith weaving a spell on the audience.
Doyle and her creative team lead us into a place of ghostly dreams and haunting memories. It’s well worth a visit… but if you haven’t booked you’d better get in quick.
It’s November 1, 2018 and the Perth Concert Hall is packed for Wendy Martin’s final Perth Festival programme launch. Anyone who has paid attention to Martin’s programming over the last four years will know that the Festival’s artistic director is a passionate advocate for contemporary dance. When the banner for STRUT Dance’s Sunset opens her 2019 line-up, however, the ripple of excitement is about more than dance.
It’s a historical moment. A local show is leading the charge.
Martin’s decision to open her final Festival launch with a home-grown show is part of a greater plan to showcase local work in this year’s programme. Alongside a terrific selection of international and interstate works, there are numerous shows and events by local artists and companies that are appearing this year under the newly-created banner, “Made in WA”. That list includes six Festival commissions.
Martin is immensely proud of the 2019 Festival’s local content. “It’s important to have a fantastically curated international programme, but it’s also important that, whichever place you’re in, the artists of that place are seen on the same platform,” she explains.
From the outset Martin’s vision was inextricably linked with WA. “When I [started at Perth Festival, four years ago] I said, ‘There are festivals in cities all over world. The thing that makes a difference is the place in which the festival happens.’ So when I arrived here, I saw myself as a detective, looking for clues and stories and threads to figure out, how I make a festival that really belongs in this place,” she explains.
Martin was immediately struck by what she describes as “the unbelievable list of artists who come from this place, both historically and now“. Her immediate response was to commission “Home” as the opening event of her first Festival, a free, one-night-only celebration of West Australian talent that included the likes of Tim Minchin, the John Butler Trio, Shaun Tan, The Drones, The Triffids and The Waifs.
The opening event of her second festival, Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak, was another home-grown special, and one which returns to this year’s Festival. Bringing together the talents of Noongar elder and director Richard Walley, and designers Zoë Atkinson and Sohan Ariel Hayes, under the direction of Nigel Jamieson, Boorna Waanginy sees one of Perth’s most treasured landmarks, Kings Park, transformed by light and sound.
Thus the seeds for the Made in WA programme were sown… but it was an idea that needed time to germinate. “As a curator, you have to know artists and they have to know you, and there needs to be a certain level of trust to be able to work on projects together,” reflects Martin. “So it’s taken this much time, three years living in Perth, to be able to commission all this new work.”
When it came to choosing which shows to commission under the new Made in WA banner, one company caught Martin’s eye early on. “From the time I began [at Perth Festival] I could not believe that The Last Great Hunt, who had toured the world, had never been in Perth Festival,” she remarks.
Martin wasn’t going to rush into anything though. “I had so many meetings, across the years, with Tim [Watts] from The Last Great Hunt. I kept saying, ‘Come on, give me something, I’d love to have you guys in the Festival…’ and then I saw New Owner [by The Last Great Hunt, commissioned by the Awesome Festival] and I loved it. If I’d have known about that show I would have loved to have had it in Perth Festival… but of course, it’s fantastic that it was in Awesome, which is an amazing Festival.
“[Tim and I] met about three times. He wanted to experiment with form and what I didn’t understand – because at that point I didn’t know him well enough – is that Tim is a wonderful storyteller, but he doesn’t start with the idea, he starts with the form of the production.”
And then The Last Great Hunt pitched the idea for Le Nor, a work that weaves together film and live performance, so that audiences witness both an on-screen story and behind-the-scenes action. “When Tim did his pitch for Le Nor I was almost crying, because I thought it was so magic, such a beautiful idea, funny and poetic,” Martin recalls. “Tim’s work, at its core has big heart … and as a programmer that’s one of the things I care about most.”
Another commissioned work that is close to Martin’s heart is STRUT Dance’s Sunset. Created in collaboration with UK choreographer and director Maxine Doyle(associate director and choreographer, Punchdrunk), in association with Tura New Music, Sunset is an immersive dance theatre work that takes audiences on a walking tour of Dalkeith’s Sunset Heritage Precinct. “Sunset is like a dream in terms of my programming aims,” she explains. “It’s a collaboration between a great international artist and local artists, it speaks to the history of this place, it’s a collaboration with more than one [local] artist and company – as well as STRUT and Tura New Music, Rachael Dease is the composer and doing the sound design, and Bruce McKinven is doing the set. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for the artists here to work with an absolute game changer. UK dance theatre company Punchdrunk have created whole new form of immersive theatre … to have someone like [Punchdrunk’s associate director and choreographer] Maxine Doyle in our midst, excited by this place… you couldn’t really ask for more.”
WA’s Tura New Music is involved in a second 2019 Festival commission, producing Cat Hope’s new opera, Speechless. In the case of Speechless, a response to the issue of children in detention that combines four soloists, a 30-voice choir, the Australian Bass Orchestra and Decibel new music ensemble, it was the motivation behind the work that appealed to Martin. “I love that Cat is an activist and a great humanitarian,” she reflects. “She was so disturbed by the decisions that the government was making in our name. So she felt the best thing that she could do is make a personal, artistic response. She read the Gillian Triggs report into children in detention and then figured out this beautiful concept which is her graphic score. The music she has written has kind of been written over the photographs and drawings that the children have done. In a way she’s giving these kids a voice by responding so directly to their art work. There are no words because those people have no voice. Cat is a really important Australian artist.”
Like The Last Great Hunt, Lost and Found Opera was on Martin’s radar from early on. Renowned for presenting unusual operas in unexpected but effective spaces, Lost and Found will be presenting its first commissioned opera, Ned Kelly, in a Jarrahdale saw mill. “Lost and Found Opera have been doing super exciting work,” enthuses Martin. “I think they have a brilliant concept and the fact that they now want to create a work from scratch – they have such a track record that you just have to trust that they’ll deliver. They’ve also got a great following… but I think the platform of the Festival will make it more recognisable.”
Much-loved local company Barking Gecko Theatre also has an established following but stands to broaden its reach by being commissioned to appear on the Festival programme. In terms of Martin’s aims, it was the cross-cultural nature of the work that caught her eye. “When Matt Edgerton proposed adapting A Ghost in My Suitcasefor the stage I was immediately attracted to the possibilities that Gabrielle Wang’s award winning YA novel offers up,” she remembers. “I was excited that Matt wanted to create the production out of deep cross cultural collaboration. It’s a rip-roaring yarn – a great adventure story of a young girl who goes to China and discovers her grandmother is a ghost hunter. It seemed to have all the right ingredients to be a perfect family show for the festival.”
Kwongkan is another Festival commission that is a cross-cultural work, and one that has fascinated Martin as she has watched it evolve. A collaboration between WA’s Ochre Contemporary Dance Company and India’s Daksha Sheth Dance Company, the work brings together Indigenous Australian and Indian performers in a ritual of dance theatre, live music, aerial acrobatics and film. “When the artists pitched the idea to me, they intended to explore the similarities between these two ancient cultures, both of whom dance barefoot, but over the course of three years … the thing that sat at the forefront of their concerns, was climate change,” she explains. “They realised that if we don’t do something now, there will be no trace, not just of ancient cultures, but of anything. So in a funny way, ‘Sand’, which was about touching the earth has now become, ‘Well if we don’t do something, sand is all we’re going to have’. To see the evolution of an idea has been exciting.”
It’s clear that witnessing the germination and blossoming of ideas intrigues and inspires Martin. “As a curator and commissioner of work, that’s the really exhilarating thing,” she remarks, “hearing an idea and being able to play some kind of role in those artists realising their vision by offering the platform of the festival.”
That platform offers greater visibility to the home crowd, but also, potentially, further afield. “I’m hoping that we’ll have international presenters and national presenters coming over to see that work, to consider it for their venues and festivals,” she concludes. “I think that’s a really important role that the Festival can play.
– Nina Levy
Perth Festival opens February 8 and runs until March 3. Head to the Perth Festival websiteto view the full program, including the six commissioned works from Western Australian artists and companies, and the rest of the Made in WA program.
Pictured top: Ian Wilkes and Isha Sharvani in Tjuntjuntjara, a remote WA Aboriginal community, during the final development of ‘Kwongkan’. Photo: Mark Howett.
Review: Fishwick & Hughes, ‘In SITU’, presented in association with STRUT Dance, Tura New Music and Artrage ·
Girls School Creative Precinct, East Perth, 29 November ·
Review by Nina Levy ·
It’s just after 7.15pm as we enter the corridors of the old Girls School in East Perth and the fading light that filters in through art-deco gridded windows lends an eeriness to proceedings. This is “In SITU”, Perth’s annual season of site-specific works from local independent choreographers and composers.
In keeping with former incarnations of this program, producers Emma Fishwick and Kynan Hughes present 2018’s “In SITU” promenade style, but this time it feels particularly adventurous. While the 1930s Girls School building is currently in use as a cultural space, it has an air of abandonment that creates a sense that we are on an expedition into the unknown.
Framing the program is Serena Chalker’s evocative installation, in-passing. As we travel from one performance space to another, we pass fragments of memory, moments of homage to the building’s former uses, first as a school and then as a police station. Text books are wedged in the wooden locker, a school uniform hangs in an alcove, incident reports cover a desk, a light-bulb hangs from gallows.
The first stop on the walking tour is a small office-carpeted room for Apply Within, choreographed and performed with punch and zest by Sarah Chaffey, Mitchell Aldridge and Melissa Tan. With its clever use of projection to imply a second performance space, Apply Within is a witty exploration of the interview process. Clad office attire teamed with boxer shorts and socks, the three dancers reveal what lies beneath their game faces. They’re accompanied by Ryan Burge’s score, that ranges from discomforting white noise to dance-style electronica. Now they move together; perched on three chairs they twitch and soften in synchrony. Now they’re solo; Aldridge pouring across the tiny space, Tan climbing the windows, crabwise, Chaffey shimmying through a presentation.
Stop two takes us into a large room lined with wooden shelving, on which sit rows of apples; their fresh scent lightly perfuming the air. This is May Greenberg’s How to Digest an Apple, a duet performed with grace and energy by Greenberg with Mitchell Harvey. Their movement is sometimes robotic, as apples are sorted; sometimes weighted, as though the apples are heavy in their hands; sometimes wild, causing an apple cascade. In Dane Yates’s electronic score we can hear vocals; repetitive, distorted.
Our third stop, in the building’s basement, is also scented; sweet and cloying. In There’s a redness in the west, blood on the moon, fire in the sky and it’s coming this way, dancers Dean-Ryan Lincoln and Tahlia Russell lead us through a series of rooms and soundscapes (by Steve Paraskos), the echoes of which create ghostly underlayers. Whether performing in the gaping space of an underground bar, a discomfortingly cramped cellar-like space or a room flooded with dead leaves, the dancers negotiate one another with a wariness that seems to battle with a desire for closeness. While this work isn’t as succinct in its motivation as the first two, both concept and performance are dramatic and engaging.
Finally we move outside, looking towards a flight of steps that leads to the building’s main entrance. At the top of the steps, two dancers hang, their torsos obscured by crimson skirts, only two hanks of hair visible to give a sense of their identity. This is Sisters Vice, created by Natalie Allen in collaboration with endearing performers Ella Watson-Heath and Sarah Sim. The two young women ricochet between adulthood and childhood, chasing one another with screeches of delight one minute, seductively sliding down the bannisters the next. Rebecca Riggs-Bennett’s score also straddles the divide; playground giggling contrasts wordless vocals.
And so, the end. As we leave the precinct, we glimpse a figure in school uniform (Serena Chalker) drifting ghost-like down the corridor. It’s time to return to the present.
Whether your interest is in dance, music, architecture, or simply a desire to lose yourself in another world, “In SITU” is an intriguing and appealing walk into the unknown. Highly recommended.
29 Nov – 1 Dec @ Girls School Creative Precinct ·
Presented by Tura New Music & Strut Dance ·
In SITU – A Dance Platform is an annual season of original site-specific works from WA independent dance artists. This year, In SITU is staged in the hidden corners of the Girls School Creative Precinct. A blend of sound, dance & architecture, come along on a journey of discovery in this historic site. This is an intimate and roaming show, with only 30 audience members at a time.
Curated and presented by Emma Fishwick and Kynan Hughes in association with Strut Dance, Tura New Music & Artrage, In SITU is part of an ongoing commitment to nurture the development of local artists.
7 – 17 February @ Sunset Heritage Precinct ·
Presented by STRUT Dance ·
Leave your comfort zone and enter a mysterious world where you wander with the spirits of Perth’s colourful past. Discover forgotten secrets in the dusty shadows of one of our city’s most intriguing and significant heritage sites – Sunset down by the iconic Swan River.
From the renowned UK director-choreographer Maxine Doyle(co-director of Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man, Sleep No More) comes a visceral dance-theatre performance that is epic in reach but intimate in experience. Inspired by the riverside precinct’s rich and unique history and the bushland that surrounds it, a stunning cast of Australian performers transforms the former Sunset Old Men’s Home into a waiting room between worlds, where classical myth collides with West Australian stories and local heroes can waltz with gods.
15 – 17 November @ PICA ·
Presented by PICA and Strut Dance ·
Unleash the confusion.
From celebrated Australian choreographer Jo Lloyd, Confusion for Three is a thrilling dance encounter with explosive physicality, live music and tour de force performances that asks us to surrender to the state of confusion for ultimate revelation.
Hypnotic tension is generated by three dancers as they negotiate a progressively unravelling system of choreography. Navigating their physical histories – from traces of folk dance to idiosyncratic body rhythms – the performers reveal a series of desperate encounters, in a destabilising flood of movement.
The question remains: can this confusion be sustained, and where does it lead us?
Post show Q&A
Friday 16 November | 8.30pm – 9.00pm FREE
Jo Lloyd is an influential Melbourne dance artist working with choreography as a social encounter, revealing behaviour over particular durations and circumstances. A dance graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, she has presented work in New York, Japan, Hong Kong and locally in Dance Massive, Next Wave, the Biennale of Sydney, Liveworks and Dark MOFO. In 2016 Jo was Resident Director of Lucy Guerin Inc. developing her new work OVERTURE, which was developed at Arts House through a CultureLab in 2017 before its premiere in 2018.
Recent projects include Confusion for Three (Arts House 2015), Mermermer created with Nicola Gunn for Chunky Move’s Next Move 2016 (nominated for a Helpmann and Green Room Awards), choreography for Nicola Gunn’s award winning Piece For Person And Ghetto Blaster (COIL Festival New York and Dance Massive 2017) and All Our Dreams Come True created and performed with Deanne Butterworth for BUS Projects 2016. Jo has worked with choreographers Shian Law (Personal Mythologies Next Wave 2014 and Vanishing Point Dance Massive 2017), Gideon Obarzanek (Chunky Move), Shelley Lasica, Sandra Parker, Prue Lang and Rebecca Jensen.
MoveMe Festival review: The Farm, Cockfight; Kynan Hughes, Love/Less & STRUT Dance, “Next” ·
State Theatre Centre of WA ·
Review by Varnya Bromilow ·
The theme of toxic masculinity is getting a lot of (long overdue) play in the Australian cultural landscape of late. With the possible exception of those packs of lycra-clad bicycling dudes, nowhere is this societal trope more evident than in the corporate workspace. It’s this setting that Queensland dance theatre ensemble The Farm has selected for their new work, the aptly named Cockfight. But if you’re worried about being bludgeoned by some unsubtle political posturing, fear not! Cockfight is 90 minutes of hilarious absurdity, wrapped in dance. I have not heard a dance audience laugh this long or this hard in a very long time.
The work opens with a deskbound Gavin Webber, playing with those corporate fidget toys – you know, the prototypes of the ones we now give to kids with ADHD? He’s nervously awaiting the arrival of young upstart, Joshua Thomson. Thomson is the new guard, the successor of the empire Webber built and Webber is none too keen on giving up the swivel chair. What ensues is an epic battle of the male ego – youth vs age; strength vs wit; innovation vs experience. Utilising all the accoutrements of your bog standard office, Webber attempts to intimidate and overshadow his nemesis. Filing cabinets are ravaged, chairs are thrown, desks are repurposed as dancing platforms. There are reams of paper, flung aloft or folded deftly into airborne missiles – one particularly memorable scene sees Thomson catch such a missile neatly in his mouth. Webber congratulates him with that most masculine of accolades – the hearty handshake, which steadily metamorphosises into a full-body, limb-swinging assault.
In another phrase, Thomson finds himself atop the filing cabinet. The next thing we know the two men are whooping around the office, knuckles dragging, chests beating. For a dance work tackling male ego and power, this is perhaps an obvious choice, but the beauty is – I never saw it coming. In a similar twist, the chairs the men are fighting with become antlers as the two bucks battle it out. Again, not surprising but somehow gleefully unanticipated.
It’s impossible to stop watching the charismatic Webber. Now silver-haired, he still has the grace of someone half his age and watchability that must be the envy of any dancer in the country. Thomson is a wonderful foil and with his (dare I say it?) youthful vigour, the better dancer. Together, whether they’re discussing the migration patterns of the Sooty Shearwater or hurling each other through the air, their chemistry bristles.
This is slapstick on the desktop. The gags – and the laughs – are relentless. By the time it was over, it was almost unclear what we had witnessed – was it dance, theatre or comedy? No matter – whatever it was, it was marvellous.
Independent local choreographer Kynan Hughes and that invaluable hub of contemporary dance in WA – STRUT dance – have produced a showcase of fine offerings as part of the MoveMe Festival. The program includes a full-length piece, produced and choreographed by Hughes, alongside two short works presented by STRUT (performed on alternate nights) – #thatwomanjulia by Natalie Allen and Sally Richardson and the one I saw, Blushed by Yilin Kong. The latter is an unashamedly sensual exploration of femininity performed by Kong in three sections. Kong’s movement is exquisite and the 20-minute work, while erring on the side of repetitive, is beautiful to watch.
Love/Less is the second full-length work from local choreographer Kynan Hughes. While the first, 2017’s Valentine, received mixed reviews, this new offering demonstrates that Hughes is coming into his own.
Inspired by the death of Hughes’ father, Love/Less has actually been in development for five years. In the program notes, the choreography is credited as a joint effort between Hughes and his dancers – Rachel Arianne Ogle, Marlo Benjamin and Alexander Perrozzi. It’s an ambitiously physical work, demanding great athleticism of the performers, all of whom rise admirably to the task. While there is not a strong narrative thread, the work’s movement and its flawless execution by the dancers easily holds the audience’s interest. Ogle is always extraordinary to watch and she is in peak form here. I’m sure she doesn’t mean to do it, but her onstage magnetism is so strong at times it tends to overshadow anyone performing alongside her. That was not the case on this occasion – when Benjamin (who I had not had the pleasure of seeing before) started in on her solo, I was gobsmacked. Like some sort of hypermobile elf, Benjamin’s control of her vessel is so impressive, her economy of movement so incredible, I could have watched her all day.
Aided by an evocative soundtrack by Sascha Budimski and gorgeous lighting from Joe Lui, Love/Less is a truly remarkable feat of dance. Dance for dance’s sake, if you will.