Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre
November 17 – 20. Season Closed.
Reviewed by Samara Purnell

What do a magical fairytale, a girl with a teacup strapped to her foot, a bunch of alarm clocks and a track-suit clad girl frantically pumping her fist in the air have in common? They were all part of this season’s “Short + Sweet”.

Nine pieces of up to ten minutes were presented by young Australian choreographers and dancers, many of them current or past locals. This collaborative effort gives Canberra amateur artists and those already working in the dance industry another forum to create and display their work and ideas.

Adelina Larsson, Festival Director, has done a good job of bringing together a diverse collection of pieces, albeit less strong on the whole than last year’s inaugural performance.

In this sold out little edition to the Canberra dance calendar, it was pretty clear that the “People’s choice” was going to be “Cuppa” by the “Unkempt Dance” troupe from Perth. Deservedly so, as the trio displayed unique ways of making and drinking tea - they dangled cups from high heels, walked on teacups and ate sugar cubes off the stage, all whilst playing musical chairs. The 50’s inspired piece was clever, well danced and cute, the girls balancing timing and chemistry along with their teacups. You can rest assured morning tea in your office will seem pretty boring after watching this.

Two of the strongest pieces were Alison Plevey’s offering, mixing good physicality and strong choreography with a touch of humour in “Jane Citizen”. It portrayed the multitude of roles we assume every day. And Tanya Voges’ depiction of a couple’s relationship, against the multimedia backdrop of a brewing storm. Her unique approach and thoughtful idea was engaging and one of the most complex pieces, despite relatively undemanding choreography.

A worthy piece from Tegan Jones made good use of space, but as a competent dancer, she would have benefited from more daring choreography. She executed the piece well, but the description of a “battle with anorexia” did not entirely suit the multimedia images, wardrobing and symphony rendition of “Unforgiven”.

Established performer Liz Lea choreographed a fairytale performed by Katie Senior, whose work was described as being in a “cross-culture and special needs” context. Her expressive face and gestures created a rich and believable story as she made her way around a pretty, fairy lit set.

Thank goodness for the notes explaining Janine Proost’s “The fist”! Without them the audience’s collective head may well have been left spinning wondering what it was all about. Her frantic-paced piece remained well controlled in movement, and demonstrated her confidence as a choreographer, willing to take risks. The style and choreography was not overly “pretty”, and wardrobe choice let her down but the energy and conviction in her acting made the piece work.

The show would have benefited from choosing a stronger piece than “Disguise or reveal” to open the show. Depicting what is revealed and hidden about us, it did not engage and the interaction between Kate McDonald and Emma Bathgate-Peterson felt a little clunky. The long black skirts worked well, but the multimedia display didn’t.

And to bookend the show, “Bodies in waiting” was hectic and a little disconcerting. A portrait of time, waiting, what we do as we wait, that consisted of a lot of bustle on stage, dancers walking on and off stage, rearranging clocks, all became rather distracting. The only male/female partnering work in the show was solid and short solos showed good dance technique, but with so much happening at once, it became hard to engage in any one part of the dance.

Eliza Sanders rightfully won best female dancer and best choreographer for her creation of “Two people, together and at once”. The clearly talented year 12 student created a demanding, energetic piece. She displayed maturity in her choreography and concept and danced to a great soundtrack in her performance with Natalie Kolobaric. Their costumes at first appeared overly fussy but soon became part of the act, adding to its complexity.

Age and experience can only strengthen the emotional conviction and connection these dancers have with themselves, each other and the audience.

With solid dancers and a nice variety of ideas and styles, next year’s Short + Sweet Dance is one to keep an eye out for.