Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dancing the Diaspora in Victoria

Sabrina Chew Dance Company.
 Photo by Belinda Strodder. Courtesy of Ausdance Victoria.

Click here to read Dancing the Diaspora in Victoria, my recent feature story in Kinesis, Ausdance Victoria's e-magazine. It's about the diversity of cultural dance practice in Victoria. There's no possible way to sum up the breadth of dance in any one city, especially one as busy as Melbourne. Let's just say if there's any type of dancing that you might want to find - it's in Melbourne! 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

We Unfold

I was blown away by the strength and sheer technical prowess of the entire Sydney Dance Company in We Unfold. Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela has handpicked and cultivated the dancers that he wants to work with. They are not only beautiful, but also able to sustain the sexy, sensual nature of his movement phrases. Apparently on We Unfold's opening night, a technical problem caused the show to stop for several minutes before carrying on. This would really break the flow of such a fluid work. Nothing like that happened second night when I attended, but even if it had, I reckon that I could have forgiven the hiccup, as the company just looked so beautiful.

Here's my review from the Herald Sun published 12 November 2010. 

Rafael Bonachela has been at the helm of Sydney Dance Company for less than two years and already has placed a distinctive aesthetic stamp on the company. His choreographic style is highly detailed - a heady mix of the sensual and the mechanical that takes extreme technical skill to pull off. 
The 14-strong, supple cast of We Unfold embody it with sharp attack and it is a pleasure to behold. But We Unfold is not just a super highway of fancy, sexy steps. For all the collective swelling of layer upon layer of movement, there are equal parts softness and stillness. Inspired by universal ideas of journeys and the ebbs and flows of nature, there is a constant tug of war between chaos and calm. 
Ezio Bosso's symphonic composition drives distinct textures ofBonachela's choreography while Daniel Askill's continuous video backdrop of star fields and rain showers steadily burns. WithJordan Askill's understated costumes, it all works into a dynamic, cohesive whole.  

We Unfold
Playhouse, The Arts Centre
09 - 13 November 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Expectation by Carlee Mellow

Carlee Mellow. Image by Igor Sapina. 
Carlee Mellow is one of the busiest contemporary dancers in Australia - she’s collaborated with everyone from Sandra Parker and Chunky Move to Deborah Hay, Lucy Guerin and Phillip AdamsShe’s a consistently strong, sharp technician and a distinct physical personality. Having such a wide breath of experience, her influences are diverse, with a particular interest in working with vocal and improvisational scores, a substantial component of Expectation, her first full length solo show.
Although solo may not be the best way to describe it. While Mellow was the only body on stage, Expectation was really a three-hander with the lightening design of Bluebottle and the sound score (which loops in the live sounds from stage) by Kelly Ryall. Expectation sat closer to the realm of dance theatre than contemporary dance, if you are into such distinctions.
It was concerned with mood, light and perception and most significantly, a constantly shifting spatial perspective on Mellow’s body doing oddly compelling things. She tottered around with what looked like a paper bag on her head; she levitated feet first up a wall; she danced a tight, muscly dance bathed in a red glow. All these physicalizations were very far away or very close. They felt either highly intimate or rather impersonal and some of them were truly bizarre. Bluebottle’s exceptional use of the huge auditorium-like space and the live cackles, tinkles, pin-dropping and crinkling sounds that filtered through Ryall’s score created a distinct sensation of unnerve and disorientation. Mellow peppered her closely-held energy and her raw, guttural utterances with glimpses of sensuality, but she never revealed too much.  
Expectation had echoes of pieces like Helen Herbertson’s Morphia Series and Disagreeable Object by Michelle Heaven where the excitement of the works was in both the constant surprise of changing atmospheric states and the commitment of the artists to traverse unhinged places. It’s no surprise that Bluebottle has designed all of these projects - their dexterity with light and stage design is consistently phenomenal.  
With its collection of unrelated and unsettling vignettes and crystal clear design, Expectation was not easy to interpret, but was, none-the-less, mesmorizing and disconcerting from start to finish. Mellow has the sensibility of a theatre maker with the foundations of a dancer. It’s no wonder that, with her highest-calibre collaborators, she conceived a unique experience that both delivered and undercut expectation. 
Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
9 - 14 November 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dance Massive is Coming....

The Malthouse Theatre launched its 2011 season yesterday. Along with all the great theatre that new artistic director Marion Potts has planned are four dance shows which are all part of the 2011 Dance Massive Festival. Along with Dancehouse, Arts House, and Ausdance, the Malthouse is a producer of Dance Massive
Dance Massive began in 2009 as a festival for Australian contemporary dance and was so successful that the plan is for a bi-annual event. Shows range from small to medium size and the artists presented are all of a very high calibre. 2009 artists included Lucy Guerin Inc, Helen Herbertson, Russell Dumas and Splintergroup as well as younger choreographers like Rogue Collective.  
Based on what's been announced so far at the Malthouse (the full Dance Massive program will be revealed in early December), the 2011 program is going to be pretty exciting - there's new work, recent work and a remount of a significant production. 
Connected. Photo by John Drysdale. 
The new work is a Chunky Move premiere called Connected. It's a collaboration with American kinetic sculptor Reuben Margolin. Margolin is creating a huge sculpture of moving parts that will be attached to the five dancers. Music, lighting, sculpture and dance will be highly connected, with all elements triggering each other. 
Faker. Photo by Heidrun Lour.
In a totally different vein, Gideon Obarzanek, artistic director of Chunky Move will present his solo, Faker - more a personal expose about creating artwork than a dance piece in itself. He presented it in Sydney this year and it looks really interesting. 

In Glass by choregrapher Narelle Benjamin also has a connection to Chunky Move. Benjamin danced with the company in its early days when it first moved to Melbourne in the late 1990s to take up the post as Victoria's flagship contemporary dance company. I still remember her fiesty performance as the knife-weilding go-go dancer in Bonehead. She has worked with just about every major company in Australia as well as having success as a dance film maker. For In Glass, her first full length production, she's collaborating with award-winnning dancers Kristina Chan and Paul White. Both are phenomenoal performers, having worked extensively with Tanya Leidtke and Australian Dance Theatre, among many others. 

Amplification. Photo by Jeff Busby.
Finally - and another connection to the late 1990s -  is a remount of Phillip Adams' Amplification. I should admit here that I have a special connection to Amplification - I wrote about it in my MA back in 2000. It was not only Adams' first major work after moving back to Melbourne after a decade in New York, it was also the inaugural work for his company BalletLab, that now, over a decade on, has an extensive and extremely diverse repertoire.  
Even though Adams' dance making practice has moved in all sorts of directions since Amplification,  the work is a great example of Adams' ideas about the relationship of ballet to contemporary performance, his interest in distorting/reinventing ballet technique and his ability to zealously research a dark topic and re-fashion it into something utterly unique. 
Check out www.malthousetheatre.com.au for more details about these shows or become an e-subscriber to Dance Massive on www.dancemassive.com.au and get all the latest updates and articles about the festival. 
Dance Massive runs 15 - 27 March 2011. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rafael Bonachela, Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company

Sydney Dance Company is on its way to Melbourne to present artistic director Rafael Bonachela's We Unfold. This work is the second full length work that Bonachela has made for the company. It premiered in Sydney in 2009 and has since done regional and international touring.

Rafael Bonachela, artistic director of Sydney Dance Company.
Click here to read more about Rafael Bonachela in my feature for australianstage.com.au. I interviewed him when he was in Melbourne in May. He had just returned from touring We Unfold through regional NSW and was about to head to China and Italy with the company. Since coming back to Australia the company has premiered a new triple bill New Creations 2 in Sydney and has been back on the road touring we unfold interstate.

We Unfold is running 9 - 13 November at the Playhouse at the Arts Centre.

Stay tuned for a review... 

Promotions at The Australian Ballet

New AB Principals - Kevin Jackson, Lana Jones, Daniel Gaudiello. Photo by James Braund.

The Australian Ballet's artistic director David McAllister has recently announced 3 new principal dancers - Daniel Gaudiello, Kevin Jackson and Lana Jones. 26 year old Jackson, who hails from Perth, is now the company's youngest principal. All three have won the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award and have been consistently impressing audiences in a range of roles. They take up their new prestigious titles in January 2011. Keep your eyes out for them on centre stage.