11 August @ WAAPA, Edith Cowan University ·
Bradford Street, Mount Lawley ·
The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), as part of Edith Cowan University’s Mount Lawley campus, is opening its doors to the public on Sunday 11 August from 10am until 3pm, for its annual Open Day event. Showcasing its wide range of performing arts courses and state-of-the-art facilities for prospective students, the WAAPA Open Day offers the perfect opportunity to take a look behind the scenes at Australia’s premier performing arts academy.
WAAPA offers full-time courses in Aboriginal Performance, Acting, Arts Management, Costume, Dance (Classical Ballet and Contemporary), Design, Lighting, Music (Classical, Jazz, Contemporary Music and Composition and Music Technology), Music Theatre, Performing Arts, Props and Scenery, Screen Performance, Sound, and Stage Management. In addition to gaining information on these WAAPA courses, the Open Day provides opportunities to meet staff and students, visit rehearsals and classes, view exhibitions and watch performances.
Visitors will be able to sit in on classes from the Acting, Dance, Performing Arts and Music Theatre programs as well as watch open rehearsals of the upcoming WAAPA productions. The Composition & Music Technology students will be giving demonstrations and performances throughout the day, whilst Classical singers and instrumentalists, Jazz and Contemporary Music ensembles will be giving free concerts in the Music Auditorium and The Edith – Spiegeltent.
Students from the Production & Design program will present guided tours all day. The Behind the Scenes tour explores the machinations of theatrical production encompassing the sound and lighting studios, costume and design studios, the Academy’s state-of-the-art theatres and the Props and Scenery Construction workshop.
Date: Sunday 11 August
Time: 10.00am to 3.00pm
Venue: WAAPA, Edith Cowan University, 2 Bradford St, Mt Lawley.
Parking: There will be free parking all day across campus
7 – 13 July @ Yagan Square ·
Presented by Yagan Square and Periscope Pictures ·
Go back in time and experience Whadjuk Noongar culture first hand. Immerse yourself in a smoking ceremony, be welcomed to country and witness the moment European ships arrived. Virtual Whadjuk is a free virtual reality event being held as part of NAIDOC Week. Suitable for ages 13+. Presented from 10am to 2 pm.
Proudly supported by the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, City of Perth, Museum of Western Australia, Screenwest, Screen Australia and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
6 July @ Drabble House, Nedlands ·
Presented by Australian Baroque ·
Australian Baroque is delighted to present James Huntingford for the 2nd masterclass in its 2019 masterclass series. Star of all things keyboard, James Huntingford is equally at ease performing on the harpsichord, fortepiano and the modern piano and has recently been recording fortepiano duets with Geoffrey Lancaster, one of the most eminent keyboard players in the world.
This concert masterclass is a wonderful opportunity to hear James perform as well as hearing pianists young and old from all over Perth. James will be upskilling piano students and teachers with historical techniques to further inform their playing of baroque repertoire to bring the music to life!
This masterclass is from 12.30pm – 3.30pm at Drabble House, 2 Webster Street, Nedlands.
Thanks to Healthway, City of Nedlands and WAAPA this concert masterclass series is free to attend; however, registration is essential at Australian-baroque.eventbrite.com.
Review: WAAPA Music Theatre, Strictly Ballroom ·
Regal Theatre, 15 June ·
Review by David Zampatti ·
The ascent of WAAPA’s annual Regal Theatre musical from an extravagant prac exercise for its third and second year music theatre students to a bona fide highlight of Perth’s entertainment calendar – with sellout crowds in the thousand-seat-plus venue as evidence – is impressive.
The turning point in its evolution was 2017’s smashing Legally Blonde, a delicious season of a never-seen-before-in-Perth hit show that was packed to the rafters. It’s little surprise, given its provenance, that this year’s first Perth season of the musical theatre remake of Baz Luhrmann’s 1992 film Strictly Ballroom was sold out before opening night.
There’s an obvious logic to all this. WAAPA, uniquely in this state, has the resources, and the guys and dolls power and talent, to mount local productions of these monster shows (over 100 of them worked on this one), and the reputation to convince their owners to grant performing rights.
So what have we here?
The stage Strictly Ballroom is greatly enlarged by the addition of a dozen new songs, mostly by Eddie Perfect with a few by the team of David Foster, Mozella and Bernie Herms and, fortuitously, Sia Furler. “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps” and, of course, “Time After Time” and “Love is in the Air” remain from the film.
Most of the new numbers are more dance than song, and that well suits the focus of the production and the strengths of this cast.
Its strongest voice is Rose Shannon-Duhigg, and her Fran is winsome, emotional and appealing. The musical highlight is Fran’s duet with her grandmother Abuela (Ciara Taylor) to Sia’s restrained but unmistakable “Leap of Faith”. It’s a song I hope to hear more of.
When push comes to shove Shannon-Duhigg shows she can also cut the rug, and her leading man Harrison Targett, while principally a dancer (his work in “On The Edge” with the male ensemble is outstanding) can hold a tune – they make a terrific leading couple around which the show is built.
The other principals – the conniving dance federation boss Barry Fife (Ethan Jones), the bitchy reigning champion Tina Sparkle (Grace Collins), Scott’s parents (Tahra Cannon and Jackson Peele), Fran’s gypsy father Rico (Benjamin Barker) and the championship Emcee JJ Silvers (Alexander Landsberry) among others, attack their stock, two-dimensional characters with gusto, and the ensemble’s work, marshalled by choreographer Jayne Smeulders, is sharp, humorous and enthusiastic throughout.
The show looks wonderful. Student costume designer Amalia Lambert unleashes a cavalcade of marvellous creations to dress everything from the fiery paso doble of “Magnifico” to the dreamy gossamer of the Ziegfeld-inspired “Beautiful When You Dance”.
Crispin Taylor’s direction and James Browne’s set are models of stylish efficiency – and they need to be.
The show bogs down badly in an overlong build up to its denouement as the multifarious strands of the story line are arduously plaited into shape. It might work on film (although my memory of it is that things did get tedious at times), but it’s a killer on the less flexible stage, so that the big finale, culminating with THAT song, lacked some of the momentum the efforts of all concerned deserved.
For all the text’s flaws, though, Strictly Ballroom’s colour and movement, its swirls and chops, make for a fine evening’s entertainment, shot through with the promise of another batch of stars for WAAPA’s seemingly infinite firmament.
Review: LINK Dance Company, ‘The Body Politic’ ·
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, 23 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·
I’m always curious to see LINK Dance Company’s May season. Part of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Art’s Dance department, LINK is designed for postgraduate students, as a fourth year of training to “link” the tertiary and professional sectors. With a fresh cohort starting every year, the annual May performance is our first chance to see the company’s latest crop of dancers in action.
As is traditional, this year’s debut season is a triple bill. Entitled “The Body Politic”, the choreographic line-up – an attractive mix of local and international talent – only added to my anticipation ahead of opening night, as did a sneak peek at a rehearsal last month.
I wasn’t disappointed.
The program opens with an aesthetic that is at once space-age and retro. Eight dancers are clad in sleeveless, A-line skirted silver (including the one male dancer – I’m loving the recent shift away from gendered costumes). The action takes place on the perimeter of, and within, a large circle of light. Composed by WAAPA lecturer Michael Terren, the score of electronic strums lends a touch of sci-fi to proceedings. This is Shrink, a new work by local emerging choreographer Scott Elstermann.
Watching this work it’s easy to see why Elstermann was the first Australian to win a coveted Pina Bausch Fellowship. There’s a dance-off, of sorts, as tension builds between those dancers moving with an organic, breathy movement style and those whose style is comically mechanical; a robotic blend of jazz and aerobics. Gradually the automatons take over, framing and re-framing around a single dancer until all have been absorbed into a droid-like dance of snappy claps and gestures.
And then almost imperceptibly – even magically – things are being pared back, until the focus is on the dancers’ fingers, and movement and music bring to mind automated insects. Shrink is a smart work, and it was performed with engaging precision and attention to detail by the 2019 company.
Next up is Chasing-breath, choreographed for LINK by visiting Israeli choreographer Niv Marinberg, with sound design by Brett Smith. The program notes for this work – which talk about the effect of emotion on our perception of time, and the effects of feeling breathless on our movement and behaviour – belie its glorious humour.
From the outset, the mood is potentially seedy. To the seductive sounds of Egyptian composer Umm Kulthum’s “Enta Oumry”, dancers – dressed for a night out – variously strut, slump or stagger across the back of the stage, which is stripped to its bricks and lined with various bottles plus two champagne glasses. As the work unfolds, to David Fray’s moody and distinctive interpretation of one of Bach’s Keyboard Concertos, various dancers move in slow motion, their limbs unfurling into prolonged balances that are disturbed as another dancer (Thomas Mullane) careers amongst them.
Things deteriorate. Now a dancer (Emily Tuckwell) is spitting what look like mint balls, while another (Giorgia Schijf) takes a swig from one of the bottles to become a human fountain. The increasing contrast between the mood of the dancers (unrelenting silliness) and the mood of the music (sombre) only heightens the entertainment value. On opening night, its clear that both audience and performers were enjoying it very much.
Closing the bill is Carnivale.3, choreographed by Raewyn Hill, artistic director of WA’s state flagship contemporary dance company, Co3 Australia. Like previous iterations of this work, Carnivale.3 is a 15 minute feat of endurance, designed, says Hill, to create group cohesion amongst the dancers as they navigate its challenges.
That sense of group cohesion radiated from the cast of eight as they forged their way through the loose-limbed leaps, deep lunges, rippling, rolling jumps and triumphant wordless cries of this mesmerising work. Rather than tiring as the work progressed, the dancers seemed to become strangely energised by the fatigue they must have felt; as Eden Mulholland’s rousing score built in intensity, so too did their performance.
“The Body Politic” is a credit to LINK Artistic Director Michael Whaites. Running at about an hour, the pacy and engaging program showcases the considerable talents of this year’s LINK dancers. It’s pleasing to note that the company is about to take this impressive triple bill on tour to France – do try to catch the show before they head off.
15 – 22 June @ The Regal Theatre, Subiaco ·
Presented by WAAPA ·
Strictly Ballroom The Musical will quick step, cha cha and samba its way into your heart when it dances on to the stage of the Regal Theatre as WAAPA’s highly anticipated mid-year musical from June 15 to 22.
Based on Baz Luhrmann’s much-loved 1992 film that became a global sensation, Strictly Ballroom The Musical breathes gleeful new theatrical life into the tale of the maverick ballroom dancer who just wants to do his own steps and the shy young Spanish dancer he takes on as his rookie partner.
Defying both convention and their families in their quest to win the Pan-Pacific Grand Prix Dancing Championship, Scott and Fran discover that to be a winner, your steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom. This sequined, sparkling extravaganza features larger-than-life characters, spectacular dance routines and much-loved songs from the hit film, including Time After Time, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Love is in the Air.
There are also fabulous new songs by internationally acclaimed artists such as David Foster, Sia Furler and WAAPA graduate Eddie Perfect, whose original score for the new Broadway hit musical, Beetlejuice was recently nominated for a 2019 Tony Award.
Strictly Ballroom The Musical will be performed by a huge cast of WAAPA’s 2nd and 3rd Year Music Theatre students with an orchestra of WAAPA Music students, under the direction of Crispin Taylor and music direction of David King. Making sure the show’s dance routines are sprinkled with just the right amount of ‘sparkle’ is former WA Ballet principal artist Jayne Smeulders, who now teaches at WAAPA. Returning to their alma mater for this production, thanks to the generous support of the Minderoo Foundation as part of WAAPA Visiting Artist Program, are set designer James Browne and lighting
designer Trent Suidgeest.
So strap on your dancing shoes for this iconic Aussie story about daring to dream and being true to yourself.
Tickets $76 Full / $66 Concession and Friends / Group deals available
Sat 15, Tue 18, Wed 19, Thu 20, Fri 21, Sat 22 June, 7.30pm
Matinee Sat 15 & Sat 22 June, 2.00pm
Book now via Ticketek: Tel: 1300 795 012 or online at www.ticketek.com.au
22 – 25 May @ Geoffs Gibbs Theatre, WAAPA, Mount Lawley ·
Presented by LINK Dance Company ·
“Collectively we are powerful,” says Michael Whaites, Artistic Director of LINK, WAAPA’s graduate dance company. “That’s the theme for The Body Politic, which showcases our talented dancers in imaginative contemporary dance pieces from a trio of exceptional choreographers.”
The Body Politic is an exciting triple bill of new dance works choreographed on the LINK Dance Company by visiting Israeli choreographer Niv Marinberg, Co3 founding Artistic Director Raewyn Hill, and WAAPA graduate Scott Elstermann, the first Australian to win a prestigious Pina Bausch Fellowship.
The Body Politic will be performed in WAAPA’s Geoff Gibbs Theatre from 22-24 May at 7.30pm with a matinee on Saturday 25 May at 2.00pm.
Review: WAAPA 2nd and 3rd year dance, ‘Rise’ ·
Geoff Gibbs Theatre, 4 May ·
Review by Nina Levy ·
With a stellar line-up of choreographic names on the bill for the WAAPA dance department’s May season, I took my seat in the Geoff Gibbs Theatre with anticipation. The program that followed more than lived up to expectation.
First up was A Fraction of Abstraction, created for its cast of 11 third year dancers by visiting Perth-born, US-based choreographer Sasha Janes. With all performers – male and female – costumed in stylish black leotards teamed with elegant skirts, the mood of this work is racy in more senses than one; playful (even flirtatious) but competitive. Set to a selection of pieces from the maelstrom of strings and percussion that is John Adams’ Book of Alleged Dances, A Fraction of Abstraction is, for the most part, comprised of fast-paced duets, frantic canons and teetering off-centre balances, all beautifully executed by the third year dancers on opening night.
I say “for the most part”; a poignant pas de deux, set to Johan Johannsson and Hildur Guonadottir’s yearning “Flight From the City”, punctuates the work’s centre. Packed with complicated lifts, the female dancer seems almost to swim around her partner. Despite a few shaky moments (opening night nerves perhaps?) dancers Alexander Diedler and Sarah Ross managed the challenges of this difficult and lengthy duet with impressive focus.
Up next was Holding on to Fall, a contemporary work choreographed by Claudia Alessi, exploring the concept that “falling is inextricably linked to holding on”. The work – by necessity – has a large cast, created for the current second year Bachelor degree students, who number more than 20. That’s a lot of bodies and though the stage feels cluttered at times, at others, the numbers provide power. This is particularly noticeable at work’s start – we see the dancers clustered in a slow-moving pyramid, their arms reaching as one, while Elvis sings of being “lonesome tonight”. This moment has a nostalgic appeal, gesturing, perhaps, to a desire to hold on to the past. In this scene and throughout, all dancers performed with intensity and commitment. Mention must be made, too, of the haunting vocals of singer Lucy Schneider.
Also striking are the solos performed on a single point harness that hangs from the fly loft, allowing the dancer to swing suspended, about a metre from the floor. Of particular note was Niña Brown’s solo, which saw her surge into a handstand that tipped as the rope swung her back so that she lay, prone, her hair trailing like Millais’ Ophelia.
After interval, the mood turned autumnal, with Shade by WAAPA lecturer Kim McCarthy. Made for 16 second year students, gently falling leaves form a backdrop to this neoclassical work, which is set to a selection of richly textured music, mostly by contemporary composers Johan Johannsson and/or Hildur Guonadottir.
Clad in shades of russet, amber and mustard, the dancers tumble and spiral, rond and roll. Various pas de deux see female dancers tossed and spun. Trios comprised of one male to two female dancers have the men working double time, switching from partner to partner at lightning speed. Like the first work of the evening, the fast pace of this work is demanding and the second year students rose to the challenge with style and grace.
Rounding out the evening’s entertainment was Liminal, a new work created for 18 third year students by Perth-born, Melbourne-based dancer and choreographer Lauren Langlois. Though the movement for the work has been created in collaboration with the dancers, it has, nonetheless, the inimitable stamp of its maker. As a performer Langlois is known for the furious energy that she emanates on stage. On opening night that manic magnetism was transferred to her young cast, who gave a mesmerising performance.
Liminal “explores symbiosis and transformation inspired by fractal patterns in nature” and the patterns in this work are compelling, from the clump of twitching, turning heads in the opening, to the line of tightly interlinked arms that spirals and undulates like a giant, robotic caterpillar. In shades of midnight blue through to pale turquoise, Anna Weir’s costumes lend an aquatic feel to proceedings, while the soundscape, created by 2018 WAAPA graduate and recent Fullbright scholarship winner Azariah Felton, fills the air with a kind of crackling magic, an abstracted storm.
This is a particularly pleasing program of work from WAAPA’s dance department. Highly recommended.
Review: WAAPA 3rd year acting, When the Rain Stops Falling ·
The Roundhouse Theatre, 4 May ·
Review by Steven Cohen ·
When the Rain Stops Falling is a strangely beautiful Australian play; original and intriguingly complex. The sheer genius of the playwright, Andrew Bovell, is striking.
Andrew Bovell is a wizard of Oz. He forgoes the politics of David Williamson, the cultural lashings of Ray Lawler and the suburban psychology of Patrick White. Rather, he sets out to shunt upon us a gut-wrenching story that tackles intergenerational trauma, father-son relationships and – curiously, given the play’s focus on the personal and familial – the devastating effect of environmental damage.
The plot is a plate of spaghetti. There is no typical rise and fall. Instead, each scene focuses upon both the ordinary and grotesque. Some scenes are intense, but the theatrical style serves the theme well: that history is not necessarily linear but tangential. And vital.
The action shifts between Alice Springs, Uluru, Adelaide and London, fluctuating backwards and forwards in time. There is little connection between scenes, zero linearity and only the subtlest of links. We are made to feel “curiouser and curiouser” through jagged moments of peculiar dis-quiet. But, this is no Wonderland. Rather, it is a juxtaposition between hinterland and wasteland, where future is devoured by the sins of the past and the only way out is through the sheer power of love, strength and hope.
The crucial scenes occur in London 20 years apart. First, we are introduced to Gabriel Law, who confronts his malcontent and dispirited mother. We learn that Gabriel’s father absconded to Australia, when Gabriel was a small child. Later, the action shifts, in the most distressing of scenes, to that pivotal moment when Gabriel’s father leaves. Ignorant of the past, Gabriel decides to retrace his father’s footsteps to the Australian centre. And there we see how the ghosts of our past crash the future.
WAAPA’s production stays true to the intensity of the narrative. Using Edith Cowan University’s Roundhouse Theatre, visiting artist and director Peggy Shannon successfully creates an intimate and visual portrayal of time and its linear shifts.
Set designer Danielle Chilton has cleverly incorporated cascading water into the stage, framing weather as a key motif. Period clothing from each of the last several decades is used to fiendishly wrap each character in a generation of servitude to their ancestors.
On opening night all nine actors were equally impressive. Characterisation was on point, as was accent, position and interpretation. Indeed, it was a shame that not all actors shared equal stage time.
Everyone should see this production. Not just for the melancholy yet uplifting story, but to rest their minds that the future of theatre is in exceptional hands.
West Australian Academy of Performing Arts: “Beethoven: Moonlight and Pathétique” ⋅
Richard Gill Auditorium, April 12 ⋅
Review by Sandra Bowdler ⋅
Charisma is a slippery thing, impossible to define, but you know it when you’re in its presence. Mike Cheng-Yu Lee, dressed simply and evincing nothing more than a gentle friendliness, stepped up to the fortepiano and instantly had the audience in the palm of his hand from beginning to end. Playing without a score throughout, his concentration was intense, and the combination of familiar music and somewhat unusual instrument made for a fresh and most rewarding experience.
Lee is currently director of the Australian National University’s Keyboard Institute – the largest collection of historical pianos in the southern hemisphere. On this occasion he was showcasing one of the historical instruments in WAAPA’s expansive keyboard collection in an all-Beethoven program.
The instrument in question – the WA Academy of Performing Art’s McNulty-Walter fortepiano (1805) – is a replica by modern maker Paul McNulty of a Viennese original by Anton Walter. Lacking the pedals of a modern piano, the dynamics of this version is controlled by knee levers, and notes are generally less sustained, leading to a somewhat clipped sound, but generally sounding completely different to a harpsichord.
Along with the famous Pathétique and Moonlight sonatas headlining the bill, other pieces by Beethoven were included. The first were the six short movements of the Bagatelles Op 126, from quite late in Beethoven’s career (1825) and covering a range of tempi and feelings which allowed the audience to appreciate the style and nature of the instrument and its potentialities. Every note was heard distinctively. Lee was able to produce noticeably varied dynamics, especially in the last two movements, filling the room with robust sound and tapering the sound down to a veritable whisper.
The Grande sonata pathétique, or Sonata in C minor Op 13, is of course one of the most familiar pieces in the classical repertoire, but it was like hearing it anew. In some ways, Lee brought out the darker side of this with an almost tortured sound to the introductory passage followed by sustained precise attack. The Adagio cantabile contrasted with gentle warmth but no sentimentality, with just the slightest pause before launching into the Rondo: allegro with flying fingers and a crisp finish.
After an interval we heard the Sonata in E minor Op 90, with its curiously and elaborately named two movements; the first was definitely played with the specified liveliness, feeling and expression throughout, and a lesson in dynamic effects. The second, marked by the composer as ‘not too fast and very song-like’, was indeed that, with soothing rippling effects and utterly lyrical withal.
It is a toss-up as to whether the Sonata in C sharp minor (Op 27 No 2) Quasi una fantasia but known as the Moonlight Sonata is more famous than the Pathétique, but in both cases Lee’s presentation brought something new. The first movement was played relatively slowly, making it somewhat of a cloudier moonlight than is usual, while the allegretto was perhaps a little faster, and livelier. The Presto agitato lived up to its description with quite a furious attack, but with every note clearly articulated and another satisfyingly concise ending.