Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Presented by Dance Development Centre
Gungahlin College Theatre, 14th December, 2018
Evening performance reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Canberra is home to several very good dance schools. The end-of-year displays presented by these schools not only provide very entertaining evenings of dance, but also  an opportunity to spot emerging young dancers about to follow their dreams of becoming professional dancers. Jackie Hallahan’s Dance Development Centre is at the forefront of Canberra dance schools and enjoys a formidable reputation for producing and equipping young artists for the highly competitive world of professional dance. The 2018 showcase of its Vocation Course students was a compelling demonstration of why.

The program commenced with an ambitious presentation of Act 2 of “Giselle” for which Jackie Hallahan reproduced   Maina Gielgud’s version of the original Marius Petipa choreography. This scene takes place in a graveyard where Giselle is buried, having gone mad and died of a broken heart as the result of being jilted by Albrecht. It’s also the graveyard where the Wilis, led by their Queen Myrtha, appear at the stroke of midnight to perform ghostly rites. When the Wilis discover that Albrecht is visiting Giselle’s grave, Myrtha condemns him to dance until he too dies.

Performing in a moody graveyard setting, created by Thompson Quan Wing and Abbie Jessop, the ensemble of student Wilis performed the demanding choreography with its difficult slow sustained jumps with commendable precision. Jessica Tonkin was a commanding Myrtha, and Isobelle France was a delicate, gentle Giselle, confidently executing the testing choreography while convincingly capturing Giselle’s ghostly presence.  Jade Allen played Giselle at the matinee.

France was partnered by Elijah Holmes as Albrecht, who impressed with his noble bearing, musicality and carefully phrased dancing.  Also impressive were Matthew Erlandson as Hilarion, and Charlotte Fisk and Lauren Morfoot as the leading Wilis.

In complete contrast to the ghostly atmosphere of “Giselle”, the second half of the program commenced with a stunningly danced, “A Chorus Line”, staged by Renee Hallahan drawing on the original Michael Bennett choreography which depicts a day in the life of fourteen dancers vying for roles in a Broadway musical.  It was fascinating to watch Isobelle France, Jessica Tonkin, Jade Allen, Lauren Morfoot, Elijah Holmes and Matthew Erlandson leading the ensemble through the exhilarating, dynamic choreography. Their enjoyment and execution was quite dazzling in its enthusiasm and thrilling attention to detail.

Tchaikovsky’s music accompanied Cathy Chapman’s charming “Children’s Christmas Dance” which featured ten prettily costumed younger dancers.  Tara Chapman and Jackie Hallahan also turned to Tchaikovsky for their “Young Aurora’s Friends” which was delightfully performed by another ensemble of seventeen young dancers.  Both items providing an opportunity to appreciate the attention to detail and technique expected of the students.

The program ended with a lovely work choreographed by Paul Knobloch entitled
“Shapes of Water” which again featured the senior ensemble, this time costumed in blue by Helen Wojtas, who was also responsible for the “Giselle” costumes. Knobloch is a master of group unison work and with “Shapes of Water”, inspired by the light and shade of formations and patterns of the currents and tides of the ocean, has created a gently mesmerising work in which the dancers flowed through a kaleidoscope of beautiful images so seamlessly and confidently that it was difficult to imagine how a professional company could have performed it better.