Thursday, August 1, 2013

“Hit the Floor Together”

QL2 presents Quantum Leap
The Playhouse
31 July – 3 August
Reviewed by Samara Purnell

(image from QL2 website)

For the Centenary production from QL2, past Quantum Leapers-cum-choreographers Daniel Riley McKinley and Dean Cross with choreographer Deon Hastie came together under Ruth Osborne’s direction to produce “Hit the Floor Together”. It was an exploration in finding connectedness and a common vision despite individual differences, cultures or backgrounds, in particular those between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth.

It was a nice idea to start the performance with a short film by means of an introduction to the dancers and especially to formalise the importance of and reference to shared land, although it missed the opportunity to maximise the impact of the incredible light and landscapes around Canberra.

After this, moving images continued, inoffensively, to be projected above the dancers in the first piece – McKinley’s “Where we gather”. By the time kaleidoscope-style projections were being used in the second piece, audience commentary was that it was more of a “screensaver” and not essential to the performance.

McKinley bought a challenging style of choreography to his piece – pulsing, earthy, identifiably Indigenous routines, that required execution over the entire bar of music, often “popping” at the end but exploring fluidity and smoothness between beats. At times this clearly required more experienced dancers to really get the most out of it, such as was demonstrated recently in McKinley’s choreography in Bangarra’s “Blak”.

Sophisticated and particularly beautiful, was when girls in the stand-out costumes of long skirts, that had been dyed using coffee and clay, were partnered by the male dancers. Earnest intensity and concentration were on display against the backdrop of an ethereal soundscape. This softness was contrasted by the guest dancers (developing artists) from NAISDA, who added maturity, strength and professionalism to the performance.

Strong female performances stood out this year, including those of Amanda Lee, in her fifth QL production and Rika Hamaguchi, but as in past productions, the timing between various dancers was, in portions, significantly out.

A more introverted look at self and identity, foremost as a human as opposed to a race/age/sex was explored in “Bloom”, choreographed by Cross. This piece was well catered for the younger or less experienced dancers and included large numbers of the cast – not an easy task. It was upbeat and energetic, set to electronica beats. At times the piece became about exploration and expression as a dancer and self-discovery at the detriment of entertaining an audience made up of more than parents and friends. It also had a certain “Rock Eisteddfod” feel about it. Snippets of information garnered from the dancers were incorporated, which amused the audience, and Cross has done well to maintain a flow of movement given the large group.

Deciding to reveal the entire stage and backstage area – kept a “theatre production” look, which was juxtaposed with some of the topics but challenged the dancers to remain in character for the duration of the show. In “Storm”, Hastie’s contribution, “off-stage” dancers maintained an aggressive intensity as tension built towards a testosterone fuelled clash between duelling mobs. Hastie challenged the dancers with lifts and leaps and it felt as if the production was building to a crescendo but the “resolution” in the fall out, fell flat and again became more about introversion in self rather than the idea of “togetherness”.

Once again it was exciting to see young men allowed the freedom to express themselves through dance, with Alex Abbot, Casey Natty and Ryan Stone amongst the featured dancers, alongside newcomer Caspar Ilschner.

The choreographers spoke of this experience as a realisation of past goals and dreams, and with composers Adam Ventoura and Reuben Ingall (another ex-Leaper) it felt like a big family reunion.

This was more sophisticated and abstract than some previous performances, but left the feeling of waiting for the knock-out punch that didn’t come. It was a brave undertaking and well executed with enthusiasm and excitement that was clear to see.