Choreographed by Nerida Matthaei
Musical Direction by Nicole Canham
Courtyard Studio – Canberra Theatre Centre.
14th – 17th March 2012
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
Choreographer, Nerida Matthaei and musician, Nicole Canham, have combined their talents to devise an imaginative, entertaining and good-humoured new dance work.
Using a book on dance etiquette, published in 1925, as their starting point, and the additional talents of dancers, Leah Shelton and Alex Bryce, they’ve interpreted and de-constructed the advice, in often hilarious and startling ways.
The Courtyard Studios were converted into a glitzy dance studio for the program, complete with twinkling lights and functioning bar from which the audience was encouraged to purchase pre-show drinks and chat with the performers already dressed in 1920’s inspired costumes.
The performance commenced with one surprised audience member being given a cleverly choreographed, introductory dance lesson by Leah Shelton, drawing on quotes from the book. These quotes set the tone and theme for the rest of the performance which consisted of a series of pas de trios, pas de deux and solos inspired by the theme.
Nerida Matthaei’s choreography, particularly in the first half, was clever, complex, demanding, and mostly, beautifully danced. Matthaei, Leah Shelton and Alex Bryce are all experienced professional dancers, each exhibiting excellent techniques and individual dance personalities which were beautifully displayed by Matthaei’s choreography. Among the many highlights was a clever pas de trios in which Matthaei attempted to intrude between Shelton and Bryce, and a brilliant catfight between Matthaei and Shelton. Alex Bryce’s solos allowed him to show off his extraordinary flexibility and delightfully mobile face.
Nicole Canham is the least experienced dancer of the group, but her contribution to the work was absolutely integral. Some sections were danced to recorded music, some of which came from the 1920’s. The rest was either contemporary or specially written. At various points Canham played live clarinet to a recorded background while negotiating choreography, and in one instance she and Shelton played clarinet and wind-organ for a solo danced by Matthaei. The results were often surprising, always fascinating and quite intriguing.
It was a pity however that the work was interrupted by an interval, as this allowed the mood to dissipate somewhat, and given that the second half was very short, and the content rather less interesting than in the first, allowed the impression that perhaps the ideas had run out.