Sunday, August 28, 2016

STRINGS ATTACHED



Australian Dance Party
Nishi Playhouse – New Acton
August 25th to 27th 2016
Reviewed by Bill Stephens


AUSTRALIAN DANCE PARTY
Liz Lea, Gabriel Comerford, Alison Plevey, Janine Proost

Photo: Lorna Sim

This collaboration between four dancers and six musicians from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, entitled, “Strings Attached”, was the inaugural presentation of a new Canberra-based professional contemporary dance company called, Australian Dance Party. 

The brain-child of choreographer and performer, Alison Plevey, Australian Dance Party aims to challenge audiences to actively think, question ideals and debate current issues through creative collaborations and adventurous performance projects by engaging a diversity of Canberra performers, thinkers and experts moving across site-specific and theatrical venues.

To this end, the choice of a pop-up theatre in the Nishi Building in the New Acton precinct was an imaginative one. Signs directing audience members to the venue provided a sense of discovery, and once inside, the sophisticated atmosphere created by Victoria Lees string sculptures, the comfortable chairs and tables arranged cabaret style, at either end of the performance space, the large harp and other musician’s paraphernalia arranged along either side, all heightened the anticipation.

With the stated objective of exploring the connection between dance and music, “Strings Attached” consisted of seven short works, presented without interruption or costume changes, as a sort of taste-treat of possibilities.

The program commenced with the room being suddenly darkened.  The sound of breathing, lightly at first, then building in intensity as the lights slowly came up to reveal the four dancers and six musicians taking the stage. They formed a circle, and replaced the breathing with rhythmic slapping and clapping sounds.

Alison Plevey - Meriel Owen (background)

Photo: Lorna Sim


As the musicians moved towards their instruments, Alison Plevey challenged the harpist, Meriel Owen, to improvise to her movements. One by one the other dancers challenged other musicians similarly, often intruding on the previous dancer. Eventually the musicians combined and launched into a languorous arrangement of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s “Ritornelle et chantee” to which each of the dancers in turn, Alison Plevey, Janine Proost, Gabriel Comerford and Liz Lea, improvised a dance in response, allowing each to showcase their particular strengths.


Gabriel Comerford - Alex Voorhoeve (background)

Photo: Lorna Sim

Similarly , each of the musicians, Meriel Owen (harp and piano), Tim Wickham (Acoustic and electric violin), Stephen Fitzgerald (percussion), Miroslav Bukovsky (Trumpet), Dave Flynn (double bass, guitar and bass guitar) and Alex Voorhoeve (acoustic and electric cello) has opportunity to shine in excellent  arrangements by composers as eclectic as James Hannigan, Zoltan Kodaly, Mariano Mores, Cy Coleman, Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Baptiste Lully and even three of the participating musicians, Alex Voorhoeve, Gavin Findlay and Tim Wickham. The musical arrangements by Dave Flynn, Mike Dooley, and Miroslav Bukovsky, provided opportunity for the musicians to display their multi-instrumental skills.


Alison Plevey

Photo: Lorna Sim

Most of the dances relied heavily on the improvisational skills of the various participants, which led to some repetition, but among the more memorable moments were the fiercely athletic solo performed by Gabriel Comerford to a militaristic Soviet style march, the erotic, bare-foot tango danced by Comerford and Proost, the energetic, unison “Frug” danced by Plevey, Lea and Proost and the orgiastic, hair-tossing finale involving all four dancers.
  
“Strings Attached” proved a promising and tantalising entrée for the Australian Dance Party. The challenge now is to develop a cohesive choreographic style and personality to build on the interest and goodwill achieved with this inaugural program.  

This review is also published in Australian Arts Review.  www.artsreview.com.au
   






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