Thursday, December 1, 2016


Project Director and Mentor: Ruth Osborne
Project Co-ordinator and additional mentoring: Jamie Winbank
Lighting Design and operation: Craig Dear
QL2 Theatre – 26th and 27th November 2016

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Now in its 18th year, “Hot to Trot” offers potential young choreographers, who participate in other of QL2 Dance initiatives, the opportunity to try their hand at choreographing a short work for this annual showcase.

Each choreographer who takes on the challenge has the advantage of professional mentoring, technical back-up and access to dancers. Each is encouraged to explore ideas and create movement, as well write program notes, source costumes and music, consider lighting design, and schedule and rehearse their dancers to performance level.

They are also required to introduce themselves and their work to their audience, and then submit to questioning by the audience after the work has been performed – a task often as daunting and revealing as the work itself.

This year ten choreographers participated. Their inspiration was as varied as their dance works, exploring such topics as loneliness, brain function, growing pains and even building demolition.

The program commenced with an absorbing short film by Natsuka Yonezawa, entitled “Travelling Light”. Filmed mostly in the carpark of the National Gallery of Australia, the film explored notions of loneliness and solitude, featuring dancers, Rifka Ruwette and Tahi Atea in a succession of tightly choreographed situations involving clever use of timing and rhythm changes  to create a heightened the sense of mystery.

“Welcome to your brain” was a bright little work by Milly Vanzwol, exploring brain function.  Performed by Vanzwal, together with Gabriel Sinclair and Patricia Hayes-Cavanagh, all clad in cheerful Hawaiian shirts, this work was notable for the clarity with which the ideas were expressed and for its well-rehearsed unison movement.

Caroline De Wan used six dancers costumed in attractive shot taffeta frocks for her ambitious and amusing work “17 Days” in which she explored the rules and laws dictating our interactions. Well-managed mood changes made for an interesting work, which would have benefited from a little more attention by the dancers to individual execution of the interesting movement ideas. 
Interesting movement choices were also evident in Ruby Ballantyne’s intriguing “The Only Constant”. Setting out to examine the “inevitability and consistency of change”, Caroline De Wan, Caspar Lischner and Jason Pearce wriggled across the floor and executed primeval neck rolling movements in strongly committed performances in an interesting work notable for its well-conceived duo work.

Caroline De Wan, Caspar Lischner, Jason Pearce in "The Only Constant"

Iamge by Lorna Sim

Tahi Atea displayed a well-developed sense of theatre with her work “Growing Pains”, which commenced with dancers Natsuko Yonezawa and Walter Wolffs confined inside a square window frame. Excellent music, lighting and mature movement choices combined to ensure the clarification of her theme.

Natsuko Yonezawa and Walter Wolffs in "Growing Pains" 

Image by Lorna Sim

Amusing facial expressions, good group movement and a sense that her dancers, Eve Buckmaster, Milly Vanwol, Rifka Ruwette and Tahi Atea, really understood the message they were conveying, marked the funny and well-executed performance of Patricia Hayes-Cavanagh’s “Pet Peeves” for which the title says it all.

Tahi Alea, Milly Vanzwol & Rifka Ruwette in "Pet Peeves" 
Image by Lorna Sim

Shantelle Wise-McCourt chose to explore the emotional and mental conflict of love and lust, with her work “Compelled”.  Danced with conviction by Caroline De Wan, Ruby Ballantyne and Zach Johnson, this moody piece featured interesting, often surprising movement choices, some interesting unison work from De Wan and Ballantyne, and a well resolved ending with Johnson alone on stage in a circle of light.

Zach Johnson and Ruby Ballantyne in "Compelled" 
Image by Lorna Sim

For his evocative work “The Graveyard Shift”, Jason Pearce dressed his dancers, Gabriel Sinclair and Ursula Taylor, in boiler suits to explore the effects of shift work. Imaginative use of a pillow and a torch, together with voice-overs, made for a compelling and interesting creation. 

Gabriel Sinclair wrote his own music, and included cheerful, friendly dialogue in his well-resolved work “We-dentity” in which Caspar Lischner, Patricia Hayes-Cavanagh, Zach Johnson and Audrey Sharwood argue over priorities in a series of snapshots.

The demolition of the Currong Apartments provided the inspiration for a thoughtful work by Ursula Taylor in which five overall clad dancers performed industrialised movement conveying her response to the demolition and reconstruction of city dwellings.

While not all of the works were successful in effectively conveying the chosen themes, all were admirable for the thought, effort and creativity which had gone into them, and together they provided a fascinating and entertaining evening of dance. Particularly impressive was the commitment of the dancers to the works in which they appeared. Whether any of the young choreographers  go on to have sustainable careers in dance is yet to be seen, but doubtless all will have learnt a great deal about the art of choreography through their participation in this year’s  “Hot To Trot”.  

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