Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Belconnen Arts Centre, 7th May 2016,

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Five new dance works by Canberra choreographers, commissioned by the Belconnen Arts Centre to celebrate Belconnen’s 50th year, together with a work by choreographer, Lewis Major, resulted in a program that was not only challenging and eclectic, but which also offered an interesting insight into the diversity of dance practice in the ACT.

The program commenced with the Lewis Major work, “Spaces Between Us”, danced by Queensland University of Technology graduates, Claire Bathgate-Petersen and Aiden Birney-Kilner.  An attempt to explore inescapable connections existing between two people, the work commenced with the two dancers facing away from the audience, arms outstretched.  Each begins to explore the other until they are holding each other’s hands. Much of the rest of the work involved complicated intertwining manoeuvres, skilfully performed by the dancers.

Debora di Centa performed her own work “Sola”. Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” accompanied a short film of images of the dancer, clad in a black velvet dress, performing moves in various outdoor locations. Eventually the sound stops, the image freezes, and the light reveals di Centa on stage in the same costume. She repeats the moves, without the music, with varying degrees of intensity. The effect is unsettling and slightly puzzling.

William Tran and Irina Vyshinskaya performing "The Meeting"

Photo: Julia Boyd

William Tran and Irina Vyshinskaya also used video projections for their light-hearted work, “The Meeting”, which they performed to Michael Jackson’s, “Rock with You”. The video, apparently filmed in autumn in a Canberra park, showed the couple, a break-dancer and a ballroom dancer, meeting and connecting through their individual dance specialities. The two dancers, who had been seated on stage watching the video, then, continued their flirtation live, entertainingly trading dance combinations

Overcoming a series of technical malfunctions at this performance, which would have fazed a less-experienced performer, Alison Plevey created and performed a powerful work called “Heatwave” which focussed on her concerns of global warming.

Presented in three sections, “Heatwave” commenced with Plevey seated in a calendar-girl pose, sunbaking to the Martha and the Vandellas song of the same name.  When the song stopped, Plevey addressed the audience while dressing herself in a heavy dress, an overcoat and heavy boots. She boiled hot water in an electric jug to fill a hot water-bottle which she stuffed into her overcoat before performing a frenetic, ritualistic dance to Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”.

To the accompaniment of Johnny Cash singing “You Are My Sunshine”, Plevey stripped back to her swimsuit to reveal her overheated, sweating body. Then addressing the audience directly she exhorted them to take climate-change seriously, ending a thought-provoking performance which not only drew cheers from her audience, but also powerfully demonstrated the use of dance for political purposes.

Choreographed and performed by Amy Dawson and Michelle Forman, “Entwine” explored the relationship between sound and movement. Responding to the sounds produced by Forman using, variously, a drum kit, a toy Xylophone, tap shoes and their own bodies, Dawson performed a series of classical and contemporary dance movements to achieve an engaging and entertaining exposition.

Dancers from QL2 performing "Act of Contact" 

The final work presented on the program was “Act of Contact”, choreographed by Sara Black to a soundscape by Alistair MacIndoe, and performed by thirteen QL2 dancers costumed arrestingly in various shades of red. Previewed recently as part of the “10,000 Miles” program at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, “Act of Contact” explores the notion of kinetic energy transferring from one living being to another to create new energies and layers of information.

The work commences with several groups of dancers posed around the stage. One dancer gently touches the other, who vibrates the spot touched.  More dancers take up the cue, and as they touch each other, the vibrations spread among them until the stage is filled with vibrating dancers.

Throughout the work, groups connect and separate until the work culminates with waves of dancers crossing the stage, eventually forming one triumphant line.

Performed with admirable commitment by all the dancers, “Act of Contact” proved a perfect finale for an entertaining and thought-provoking program of contemporary dance making.

This review first published in the digital edition of CITY NEWS on 10.05.2016.