Friday, June 15, 2018

The Beginning of Nature - Australian Dance Theatre

Review by John Lombard

Humans often see themselves as above the dance of life, but The Australian Dance Theatre’s contemporary piece “The Beginning of Nature” anchors our bodies in the sinuous rhythms of the natural world.

Australian Dance Theatre Artistic Director Gary Stewart describes his creation as a counter-argument to the belief that "we exist outside of nature and are not outside and separate from it.”

This piece knotted together humans and nature through immaculate coordination between the dancers, and by representing death as serving a purpose larger than the loss of any individual.

In one segment the dancers acted out animals encountering a dead body.  They crouched in close to examine this limp curiosity, but did not languish in grief.

Rather than dwelling on pain and loss the piece focused on the mystery of life, and the sense of awe enabled the audience to feel as though they were part of that grand puzzle.

Haunting music by composer Brendan Woithe helped create a ceremonial atmosphere.  Strings and vocals created a feeling of veneration, but rather than opting for pounding drums Woite deployed electronica to remind us that there is something inhuman in the processes of life.

In this piece depersonalisation was treated not as a nightmare, but as an opportunity to shed our temporary selves and fuse with something greater.  The dancers were attired in smocks that stripped them of individuality and gender, but together they created images more sophisticated than their individual bodies.

In one highlight the dancers knitted together to form an endlessly blossoming flower, perfectly capturing what Charles Darwin described as “endless forms most beautiful”.

The movement itself was often strangely contorted, but never jerky or painful.  Instead it was as though the dancers had surrendered to the firecracker impulses of an invigorating lifeforce.

The Beginning of Nature deploys brilliant and highly technical coordination between its dancers to show that people are part of nature, and creates a feeling of awe that invites the audience to participate.  The natural world is a theme well-explored in dance, but in The Beginning of Nature these eternal ideas blossom into a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation.