Saturday, September 21, 2019


Alana Stenning, Ryan  Stone, Olivia Fyffe performing "From the Vault"

Choreographed by Alison Plevey  - Costumes designed by Imogen Keen
Lighting Design by Mark Dyson - Music by Alex Voorhoeve 
Sound design by Andy McMillan
Presented by Australian Dance Party 
Diary Road, Canberra 20th to 22nd September.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Australian Dance Party, under the leadership of Alison Plevey, has established quite a following for its site-specific dance works highlighting matters of social conscience. The discovery of a dis-used building in Fyshwick which had previously been a storage bunker for the Mint, prompted  choreographer, Alison Plevey, to question the value placed on money, the place of money in our lives, and indeed how our bodies become the vaults for the storage of memories, motivations, and whatever it is that constitutes us. The result is an intriguing, thoughtful and brilliantly executed dance work.

The set up for “In the Vault” is masterly. The location of the vault was kept secret from the audience until the day before the first performance, when ticket holders were notified of the location by email. Upon arrival, each was presented with a key and directed to a dimly lit locked door, where a silent guard, wearing dark glasses, examined the key before allowing the bearer to use it to unlock the door.

Artists of Australian Dance Party performing "From the Vault" 

Once inside the cavernous building, red laser lights pierced the blue lit haze, revealing a large square performance area surrounded by chairs on each side, and guarded by silent, unsmiling figures all wearing dark glasses. A strange electronic buzz provided the soundscape.  The atmosphere was as un-nerving as it was intriguing.

A dramatic bolt of light signalled the beginning of the performance, revealing the five dancers huddled in a tight group centre- stage. Olivia Fyfe, Stephen Gow, Eliza Sanders, Alana Stenning and Ryan Stone, performed a series of abstract sequences, most having a connection with money. Each wore an attractive individual costume, designed by Imogene Keen, a combination of post-apocalyptic and shabby chic, but with metallic highlights which flashed in the light as the dancers moved.

For the first sequence they huddled in a tight group, responding to the pounding soundscape, performed live by cellist, Alex Voorhoeve and sound designer, Andy McMillan. When one tried to escape the group, the others menaced him.  Coins showered from above which were quickly gathered by the dancers, who then used them to gamble their new found wealth.

"From the Vault"  - Stephen Gow (Centre) 

One sequence involved a cleverly choreographed Mozartian style court dance.  Another involved four of the dancers using chalk to scribble their thoughts around the stage, eventually covering the whole area, while the other verbalised hers in a stream of consciousness monologue. Eventually the writings were obliterated with brilliantly performed acrobatic group movements.

Regardless of what response is prompted in individual observers as to the relevance of each sequence, “In the Vault” is a brilliantly conceived and executed dance work, certainly the best yet from Australian Dance Party and confirms Alison Plevey’s status as an important and original creative voice in Australian contemporary dance.

                                              Photos by Lorna Sim 

                    This review first published in CITY NEWS on 21.09.19