Wednesday, December 21, 2011


QL2 Dance

Gorman House Arts Centre

17th December

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

                        Photo: "Reports Are Unconfirmed" by Ashleigh Musk and Courtney Scheu
                       Dancers L- R Courtney Schou. Lauren Grow, Ashleigh Musk, Emma Barnet
                                                       Photo by Lorna Sim

Now in its fourth year, “On Course” was QL2’s final program for 2011. It brought together current dance students from tertiary institutions around Australia to choreograph and perform a program of short works. The participants included many veteran Quantum Leapers, as well as other tertiary dance students from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and Deakin University, as well as some current Quantum Leapers, involved as dancers, working alongside the tertiary students.

This year “On Course” was presented for two nights in the QL2 Studios in Gorman house. It consisted of 15 works, each around 8 minutes in length. As many of the works on show were by choreographers who had previously been through the Quantum Leap experience, and who were now furthering their studies around Australia, the program provided an excellent opportunity to gain an overview as to how these young choreographers had responded to wider influences and experiences, as well as to see the work of other choreographers who had not previously participated in Quantum Leap programs.

Given the limited rehearsal period, and the fact that in many cases the choreographers were working with dancers new to them, the results achieved were, in some cases, quite remarkable.

As has become the norm with QL2 presentations, careful attention had been paid to the selection of appropriate music for each piece, and despite the length of the program, all the items were staged with the minimum of fuss, enhanced by attractive lighting, and smooth efficient scene changes, providing the choreographers with the best possible environment for their works.

Rebecca Lee’s stylish and confident “Ego-Pro” satirised the world of fashion modelling, utilising six dancers sporting heavy black eyebrows and outfitted in identical elegant, off-white costumes. Jessica Pearce chose to costume her four dancers in attractive plum-coloured costumes to engage in an up-beat exploration of physical and emotional attraction in her well-staged work “Energy Attraction”.

Mackenzie Burn drew on her experiences with a young autistic boy to create “Jack”, an engaging and accessible work danced by five dancers to the music of Xavier Rudd.

Bhenjamin Radburn also used original music by Leigh Hannah, and six dancers, for his piece, “Wild Like Kylie”, which despite featuring a pop princess and some interesting ideas, did not really convey its intention very clearly. Interesting ideas, not particularly well realised, also characterised Chloe Chignell’s more abstract “The Wild and the Perfect”. A piece for four dancers which contained some well devised unison movement.

Sean Gearon left no doubt as to his intentions with “Living with Lucy”, an amusing exploration of the frustrations of living with another person. Clear, economic movement and clever floor work were features of this engaging piece for two dancers.

Lovely floor work was also a feature of Mercie Taylor’s languid, beautifully danced “Breeze” in which she attempted to evoke a plastic bag blowing in the breeze. Jamie Winbank also chose to dance his own deeply personal solo work, “Stood Before You”, employing spoken word, carefully chosen contemporary songs, and a pair of red socks, for a work which was in turns poignant, funny and revealling.

Superb use of props, this time newspapers, made “Reports are unconfirmed“ by Ashleigh Musk and Courtney Scheu, a particularly memorable work. To the accompaniment of lush background music, the four dancers cleverly manipulated multiple pages of newspapers to create a flowing dreamscape in which they walked over, tossed about, and earnestly read, the newspapers, all the while creating beautiful images.

Photo "to hinder the passage, progress,etc., of.." by Lauren Grow
Dancer: Ashleigh Musk
Photo: Lorna Sim

Imaginative props were also central to Lauren Grow’s extraordinary piece, “To Hinder the passage, progress, etc., of “, which set out to explore the effects that foreign objects may or may not have on movement. One dancer (pictured) was wrapped in fairy lights, another covered in stick-on strips, and yet another danced among photo frames to create a series of unexpected, mesmerising stage pictures.

Ashlee Barton used tea candles and projected silhouettes to create a contemplative mood for her work entitled “Stripped Bare Until Empty”, and Ashlee Bye utilised chairs and four dancers to explore concepts of ‘originality’ in her work, which bore the rather unhelpful title of “After deciding not to go left I chose the path I did not think was right”.

No confusion about either the title or the content of Joel Fenton’s delightful, tongue-in-cheek, insightful creation, “ What is Contemporary Dance?” in which his five dancers skilfully demonstrated many of the clichéd moves associated with the genre, quite a few of which had already been utilised in the preceding pieces. This work was as funny as it was refreshing.

Funny, but in a completely different way, was Paul Jackson’s puzzling piece, “The Sky Might Fall” which had five dancers vocalising and trilling like birds, while performing what appeared to be warm-up excercises to music by Bjork. It was an intriguing finish for a fascinating and satisfying program.

Unfortunately, partly because of the large first night crowd, but mainly because not having consulted my program before I sat down, and therefore not realising that it was part of the program, I saw very little of the first item, “….in wonderland”, a dance film installation by James and Emma Batchelor. This work was presented at one end of the foyer, before the audience moved into the auditorium.

The performance ended with well-staged bows in which the dancers of each work regrouped, and were joined by the various choreographers for their bows, effectively highlighting how many dancers and choreographers had been involved, all of whom stayed onstage for a brief Q & A session, led by Ruth Osborne and Adelina Larsson, during which both audience and participants reflected on what they had just seen.