Sunday, March 13, 2022

LESS by Australian Dance Party


Photo by Lorna Sim

LESS – Australian Dance Party at LESS Pavilion, Canberra. March 4th , 5th , 10th , 11th  and 12th. Enlighten Festival; The BOLD Festival.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
March 12

Directed by Alison Plevey in collaboration with dancers Ryan Stone, Ashlee Bye, Levente Szabo, Jake Silvestro and Patricia Hayes-Cavanagh.
Sound design by Alex Voorhoeve with live instrumentation by Liam Budge (vocals) and John Mackey (sax).
Lighting Design by Dynamic AV.
Costume Design by Aislinn King.

Though I am old and no longer anywhere near as bold as so many of the workshop participants and performers in Liz Lea’s week-long BOLD Festival, I will boldly write that there definitely should be more of LESS.

For those old enough to remember Graham Jones’ Kinetic Energy Dance Company, in its early days in the 1970s, when his company “became famous for its site-specific events for tertiary institutions, in cafeterias, libraries, quadrangles etc.”, Australian Dance Party’s very site-specific exploration of the new sculpture, LESS Pavilion, at the Dairy Road precinct adjacent to the Jerrabomberra Wetlands has a déjà vu effect.

Alison Plevey’s style may be rather different from Graham Jones’, with his Ballet Rambert experience, but the scene-shifting in response to the different elements of the built environment is in this tradition.  In creating the work, improvisation on location must surely be central to ADP’s process as it was for Kinetic Energy’s.  

LESS begins with a kind of almost formal invocation adagio in water, recognising its place underlying the land.  From walking in still water, shallow and almost representing Biblical walking on water, reactions form – from humour to intense dislike and even fear – to the splashing nature of the medium, as well as recognition of our need for life-giving water.  Accompanied by a miked amplified voice – musical at first through to all kinds of mouth noises – seemingly improvised live, the dance of life spreads into the structure of the LESS Pavilion at ground level until there is excitement running up around the circular ramp into the upper level among the ever-rising pillars.  

A point is reached when it seems that all possible moods and responses in movement have been explored – and quietness and stillness reign again.  And our applause becomes our response.

Photos: Frank McKone, taken during the performance by phone along with many other audience members.

ADP's LESS on water 1

ADP's LESS on water 2

ADP's LESS on built structure - lower level

ADP's LESS on built structure - upper level

“Commissioned by Molonglo Group from Chilean architects Pezo von Ellrichshausen (Mauricio Pezo and Sofia Von Ellrichshausen), the LESS Pavilion pays homage to Canberra’s brutalist architectural roots as well as the feel of ancient temples and structures.”  The dance and sound effects in its times of frustration and fear certainly felt brutalist but perhaps the message for us Canberrans is to learn to accept the contrasting elements of lived reality even when things seem to be the same-old same-old.  The interest lay in the moments of change and the appearance of the unexpected.

Australian Dance Party’s LESS, then, is an interesting work in the tradition of site-specific modern dance.  The water provided reflection both in reality and of the spirit of the place.  The Pavilion as a sculpture – as Alison Plevey said, with no intended purpose – was given a purpose by providing the place and the spaces for the art of dance, surrounded by the recorded soundscape by Alex Voorhoeve, and led emotionally by Liam Budge (vocals) and John Mackey (sax).

The result was more a kind of meditation on the nature of things – natural and built – rather than a narrative in the ordinary sense.  Interesting indeed.