Friday, March 18, 2022




Choreographer Stephanie Lake. Composer Robin Fox Lighting designer Bosco Shaw. Set designer Charles Davis. Costume designer Paula Levis. Dancers: Rachel Coulson, Marni Green. Samantha Hinea. Melissa Pham. Harrison Ritchie-Jones. Robert Tinning. Osie Welse. Kimball Wong. Jack Ziesing., Understudy. Franky Drusioti. Drummers: Robbie Avanaim, Nat Grant, Alon Ilsar, Maria Moles, Tina Nguyen, Rama Parwata, Rohan Rebeiro, Alex Roper, Jen Tait. The Dunstan Playhouse. Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival. March 17-20 2022

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins. 

Stephanie Lake. Choreographer of Manifesto

“There is something primal about this show (Manifesto)” Stephanie Lakes writes in her program note. “It is to be experienced, not intellectualized or analyzed. It is unmediated energy and force”

It is that and much more. On Charles Davis’s set reminiscent of the setting for the big bands of the Golden Age, nine drummers sit against a bright orange backdrop. On the stage, nine dancers in white costume sit on chairs, waiting to burst into life. A single loud beat of the drum and the bodies twitch into a frozen moment. Another and as though charged with electric current the dancers change pose. The control is extraordinary, the movements instantaneous and precise, the bodies switching on the current of vibrant response to the percussion and Robin Fox’s remarkable orchestration of the multi-timbral percussion ensemble.

 And suddenly the stage bursts into life as the dancers leap, twist, roll and gyrate. What follows to the sound of the incessant percussion coursing through the body is a series of perfectly choreographed and beautifully sculpted movements. The air comes alive with the grace of the ballet. The floor rebounds with the assault of break dance, the stage leaps to the darting movements of hip hop and suddenly the ensemble comes together in a community of solidarity or comforting security or defiant rebellion. Fox’s composition finds the emotional heart and the dance becomes a stunning synthesis of sound and movement.

Lake is a choreographer who not only has an instinctive appreciation of the power of contemporary dance but also an obvious love of her dancers. Each drummer and each dancer is given a solo moment to shine. The dance finds antithesis in its changing form. There are moments of contemplative stillness, expressions of joy and frolic and eruptions of chaos. Human nature finds expression in the skilfully choreographed patterns of the dance. There are moments of sadness, moments of conflict, moments of elation and moments of sheer ebullience. The use of the drums as a soundtrack to the dance is a brilliant concept that lends Manifesto an unabashed and ground-breaking celebration of the art. There is no pretension. Manifesto is celebration, it is ritual, it is worship and it is community. Above all it is a joyous celebration of being alive, an unforgettable life-affirming force. At the end of the performance one leaves replenished, embraced by the original and imaginative talent of Lake’s highly inventive choreography and Fox’s ingenious composition for drums. This is dance that does not ask you to work out what it’s all about. Watching such phenomenally flexible and expressive dancers on stage is cathartic. Listening to the rhythms of the drums is uplifting and by the end of this extraordinary performance one is left with a shared feeling of communal joyfulness and hope.

 The one hour performance resounds with the brilliance of creative collaboration and percussive and physical agility. As the company takes its final jubilant bow, there is an air of joie de vivre that makes Manifesto one of the Adelaide Festival’s unforgettable highlights