Wednesday, October 17, 2018

HAPPINESS IS ...Celebrating 40 years of Canberra Dance Theatre

Some of the cast of "Happiness is …"

Photo Lorna Sim

Directed by Jacqui Simmonds for Canberra Dance Theatre.
The Street Theatre 12th -14th October.
Performance on 14th October reviewed by Bill Stephens

Established in 1978, under the artistic direction of Stephanie Burridge, Canberra Dance Theatre (originally Canberra Dance Ensemble) has enjoyed remarkable longevity as an important outlet for the creativity of dance makers from both Canberra and beyond.

The twelve well-chosen works impeccably presented in this celebratory program provided an extraordinarily entertaining and persuasive demonstration of the diversity and quality of the work of this remarkable organization and why it is so valued by the Canberra dance community.

A work inspired by a Dylan Thomas poem, “The Green Fuse”, choreographed by Carol Brown to the music of Rick Smith’s “And I will Kiss”, provided a dramatic opening.  As the lights slowly revealed the GOLD dancers, prostrate on stage, the voice of Camilla Blunden filled the theatre with the words of  Dylan’s poem. Suddenly a single head popped out of the mass, then others, nd as Smith’s atmospheric music took over, the dancers, each seemingly captivated by their own thoughts, created a charming sense of reverie to begin the evening.

Later in the program, the GOLD dancers showed their versatility by performing “Annette”, Chrissie Shaw’s delightful tribute to swimmer, Annette Kellerman, cheekily choreographed by Liz Lea and first seen as part of the Australian Dance Award winning production, “Great Sport”, at the National Museum of Australia.

CDE founding Artistic Director, Stephanie Burridge, returned from Singapore to give a mesmerizing performance of her lovely solo, “Fragile”, for which the music of Saint-Saens “The Swan”, was performed live on stage by violinist Kailin Yong. Yong also performed with Anca Frankenhaeuser, in the highlight of the evening, “Mist”, a stunning work choreographed by Burridge for two performers, which commenced with Yong playing his violin while lying on his back, and with Frankenhaeuser blindfolded. .
Anca Frankenhaekuser and Kailin Yong performing "Mist" 

Photo by Andrew Sikorski

Other highlights included a spell-binding duet, “Hand Again” performed by Frankenhaeuser and Patrick Harding-Irmer,  a lovely performance of Elizabeth Cameron Dalman’s solo “Woman of the River”,  by Amanda Tutalo, and Grace Bannister-Tyrell performance of a  percussive solo,”Pamoja”, originally created by previous CDT Artistic Director  Amalia Horden, and remounted for these performances by Philip Piggin.

If any proof were needed as to the breadth and variety of dance styles and techniques embraced be CDT over the years, there was plenty on show in the ensemble works which included a troupe of graceful Hilal Dancers  who performed “The Other I”, choreographed by Rachael Hilton and Melissa Lee  to the music of the Tawadros Brothers, Fusako Skelton’s charming  “A Maze In Day” in which ballerina’s in black tutu’s gently competed for attention displaying their classical ballet technique to the music of Scott Joplin.

Jazida’s Fabulous Fan Dancers expertly manipulated huge multi-coloured ostrich feather fans to spectacular effect for “Because I Love You”, then later returned to dazzle with colourful silk fans for a routine entitled “Spice Girls”, both of which were choreographed by Rachel Reid.

The evening ended appropriately with a joyful ensemble work choreographed by Emma Saunders, called “Happiness Is …” which effectively highlighted the connections between  movement, dance, happiness and well-being,  factors which have been driving forces behind  Canberra Dance Theatre. It was a message subtly underlined by the outdoor performance by the special needs group, the CDTeens, which preceded the main performance.

                           This review first published in CITY NEWS on 15.10.18