Thursday, July 20, 2023

LUCIE IN THE SKY - Australasian Dance Collective


Chimene Steele-Prior with Lucie in "Lucie in the Sky"

Concepted, created and choreographed by Amy Hollingsworth

Lighting Design by Alexander Berlage – Costumes designed by Harriet Oxley.

Music composition and sound design by Wil Hughes

Drone choreography by Amy Hollingsworth and Verity Studio.

Drones programmed by Verity Studio – Technical Adviser: Dr Catherine Ball

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse 14th and 15th July 2023.

Performance on 14th July reviewed by Bill Stephens.

Putting aside the technical miracles achieved in getting this production to the stage, it’s amazing how easily one succumbs to the fantasy that these cute little fairy lights have personalities of their own, and react with curiosity and playfulness to the overtures of the six superb dancers who make up the Australasian Dance Collective.

Presented as part of Canberra’s inaugural Uncharted Territory Festival, created to celebrate creativity, experimentation and ground-breaking ideas, “Lucie in the Sky” certainly ticked all the boxes of the festival’s criteria.

Dancers of Australian Dance Collective interacting with the drones in "Lucie in the Sky"

“Lucie in the Sky” was concepted, created and choreographed by Amy Hollingsworth with, and for, the six dancers who make up her Australasian Dance Collective; Chase Clegg-Robinson, Harrison Elliott, Lilly King, Taiga Kita-Leong, Jack Lister and Chimene Steele-Prior.

Before the performance Hollingsworth addressed the audience to inform it that each of the five drones had been given individual names and emotionally coded to respond to the personalities allotted to the six dancers, the Caregiver, the Artist, the Innocent, the Seeker, the Magician and the Warrior.

She also shattered any suggestion that the name of the show had anything to do with the Beatles pop group, explaining that the particular microdrones used were trademarked, Lucies. In this show the blue drone is called Lucie, hence the title.  

In performance however , even though each of the drones had its own individual colour, it still proved difficult to keep track of who, and which, was what, mainly due to the low lighting level of Alexander Berlage’s extraordinary lighting design. Necessary of course to highlight the drones, but often making it difficult to recognise the individual dancers.

All the dancers were costumed in elegant, individually detailed, off-white costumes, designed by Harriet Oxley. Each was given moments to shine, with and without the drones. The whip-sharp solos and graceful group interaction, cleverly choreographed by Hollingsworth to highlight each dancer’s individuality and strengths, were a joy to watch.

Harrison Elliott and Skip in "Lucie in the Sky".

Harrison Elliott was a stand-out with his virtuosic, beautifully controlled tumbling and playful responses to the cheeky drone, Skip the Jester.

This is not the first time drones have been used in live performance.  Celine Dion, Justin Bieber and even Cirque du Soleil have used them in mass displays. However with “Lucie in the Sky”, Amy Hollingsworth and her company have found a captivating way to make them appear to interact with the performers.

Therefore after bonding with the five captivating drones during performance it came as something of a letdown to discover, in the post-show conversation that followed the opening night performance, that it actually required 48 drones for each performance.

This is because each tiny Lucie drone only has a three-minute battery life. To then learn that each drone is carefully mapped and tightly programmed, requiring the dancers to adhere strictly to the complex choreography to achieve the impression that they were interacting with the drones, felt a little like learning the truth about Santa Claus.

However don’t let truth deprive you of a truly unique and delightful experience when “Lucie in the Sky” comes your way.

                                                         Images by David Kelly

       This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.