QL2 Dance and Quantum Leap
31st July – 3rd August.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
During his remarks at the reception following the premiere performance of “Hit The Floor Together”, QL2 patron Sir William Deane offered the opinion that “this was the best Quantum Leap production yet”. In that assessment he would get little argument from me, because although Quantum Leap have offered many remarkable performances previously, with “Hit The Floor Together” they have raised the bar significantly in terms of execution, presentation and technical support.
Conceived as a special Canberra Centenary Year event, “Hit The Floor Together” is centred on the theme of inclusiveness between indigenous and non-indigenous young people. The usual Quantum Leap dance ensemble of young dancers from the ACT and surrounding regions has been augmented with dancers from NAISDA Dance College, Kurruru Youth Performing Arts in Adelaide, as well as from Queensland, regional NSW and even Thailand.
The task of exploring these themes in dance terms with 45 young dancers was entrusted to three professional choreographers, Daniel Riley McKinley, Dean Cross and Deon Hastie, of whom both Riley McKinley and Cross had started their dance careers with QL2.
Each of the choreographers created a separate piece for the production, which was presented without an interval and preceded by a short beautifully- filmed prologue to set up the theme, and a concluding finale, both created by Ruth Osborne and Adelina Larsson.
The first segment “Where We Gather”, choreographed by Riley McKinley, was the most cohesive and impressive, clearly displaying the growing confidence of his choreographic skills and why this young choreographer is attracting such attention in the dance world. His choreography, though deeply rooted in what we recognise as the indigenous dance style, with its bent knees and sloped shoulders for the men, graceful flowing movements and downcast eyes for the women, featured impressive floor work, sensitive partnering and imaginative transitions between movements. His choreography made no concessions for the varying abilities of his dancers, who rose to the challenge magnificently. Strong manly movements for the men contrasting with gentle complex choreography for the women wearing flattering earth-coloured skirts, resulted in many memorable moments in a superbly realised work which would be a source of pride for many professional dance companies.
Although it also contained imaginative moments, Dean Cross’s “Bloom” took a more conventional and episodic approach to the theme of inclusiveness. Drawing on the natural exuberance of his dancers, Cross created an energetic and entertaining work which commenced with the dancers in an inclusive circle, from which they formed kaleidoscopic shapes which broke into more frenetic movement. Highlights included a lovely passage where the dancers used their hands to suggest the ebb and flow of sea anemones, and a charming spoken sequence where two dancers simultaneously, but in different languages, described their coping mechanisms.
For his work, “Storm”, Deon Hastie chose the dramatic possibilities of contrasting the aftermath of the energy released by a violent storm to that of an angry mob to create a fast-paced abstract work which contained plenty of opportunity for the dancers to display their physicality, especially in the well-staged fight sequence.
Central to the success of each of the works was the extraordinary quality of each of the technical production elements, always a hallmark of QL2 presentations. The subtle, flattering costumes of Christiane Nowak; the remarkable series of atmospheric soundscapes created by Adam Ventura utilising an extraordinary variety of sounds which were physically felt as much as heard. The imaginative stripped-back set design by Suse Ilschner which provided an excellent space for dancing, and when enhanced by Toby Knyvett's dramatic lighting, the ever-changing abstract visuals by Bearcage Productions, and the physical presence of dancers when they were not actually dancing, created a mysterious and ever- changing environment for each section of the performance.
Apart from being hugely entertaining, "Hit The Floor Together" is a wonderful example of excellence in youth dance, a glowing endorsement of the efforts of QL2 Dance and Quantum Leap in establishing the National Capital as a leader in this field, and a significant contribution to the success of Canberra’s Centenary Year Celebrations.