Devised and performed by JOEL BRAY
Joel Bray Dance and Canberra Theatre Centre
Canberra Theatre Centre. July 30th
to August 1st. 2021.
Joel Bray is
a successful dancer, writer and performance-maker who trained at NAISDA and WAAPA.
He pursued a career in Europe dancing in a succession of overseas dance
companies before returning to Australia to work with Chunky Move.
awkwardly named show, promoted as being modelled on the successful Politics in the Pub and Science in the Pub presentations, his
stated aim was to attempt to demystify contemporary dance through conversation,
silly stories, music and dance.
night performance attracted a large contingent of Canberra’s dance cognoscenti,
attracted by Bray’s reputation as an inventive dance-maker, as well as others
perhaps more interested in the promise of a free drink on arrival and a house
and science are both verbal pursuits, dance is very much a visual medium, and
consequently people who visit pubs and bars rarely do so to discuss
contemporary dance. As it turned out, the performance contained no discussion
and very little that would attract the unconverted to contemporary dance.
It does contain
some impressive contemporary dance elements however, but these were seriously
compromised by the decision to present them in an unsuitable environment.
with the concept, the Courtyard studio was transformed into a cosy pub. The
walls were decorated with sporting memorabilia, with the audience seated at
cabaret tables facing the performance area, with a well-stocked bar set up
|Joel Bray and Jess Green
raised platform stretched across the back wall facing the audience with a
cleared area in front where most of the dancing took place. At one end of the
platform, positioned in relative gloom, was “the house band”, which turned out
to be accomplished local singer/composer/musician, Jess Green, who contributed
a charming solo, and accompanied the performance with atmospheric synth music,
sometimes appearing to surprise Bray with her choices.
the other end of the platform were a vegetarian meat tray and a bottle of wine,
which it turned out were the prizes for a series of audience participation
party games which formed the main substance of the performance.
Prior to the
performance Bray, costumed in a sequined black jacket, set up an informal
atmosphere by circulating between the tables and trading quips with audience
As the performance
began, he then introduced himself and his associate artist, Jess Green, and after
a few welcoming remarks, removed his black jacket to perform the first of two
outstanding highlights of the show.
The first, a clever three-minute dance/ lecture in which he outlined the history of
contemporary dance while demonstrating the signature moves of the famous choreographers
who contributed to that history.
highlight was a fascinating demonstration of his approach to choreography,
following which, in full view of the audience, he changed into a matelot
costume, donned white make-up and performed a beautifully executed solo utilising the
choreography he had just demonstrated.
problem was that as with most contemporary dance both these solos contained a
great deal of complex floor work, most of which regrettably was lost to all but
those fortunate few occupying the front tables.
highlights were positioned between a series of time-wasting audience
participation segments which seemed to be hugely enjoyed by those willing to
embarrass themselves for the edification of boisterous friends and the glory of
winning the meat-tray and a bottle of wine.
|Joel Bray and Jess Green
Much of the
program looked surprisingly under-rehearsed. In fact it often appeared that Bray
and his associate artist had had little time to communicate, given that he
interrupted his performance several times to compliment her on her choice of
accompanying music, suggesting that he had not heard it before.
It was an
excellent idea to create a cabaret questioning the tropes of contemporary
dance, and it is obvious from some segments of this program that Bray has the
wit and skills necessary to create something very special in this regard. “I Liked It but I didn’t know what the f#!k it
was about” is not that show. .
Bray will hold on to the successful elements, create other segments to match
them, discard the rubbish, and create for himself and his audience, a showcase
worthy of his talents.
Images provided by the Canberra Theatre Centre
This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW. www.artsreview.com.au