“Happy Birthday, Wanda June,” written by Kurt Vonnegut, directed by Cate Clelland, Canberra REP at Theatre, until August 4. Reviewed BY LEN POWER
QL2 helps by providing dancers, mentoring, technical facilities and studio time so choreographers can develop their creations.
This year 10 young artists stepped up to create the two films and eight dance works which made up the program. Some for the first time, and others building on experience gained in previous programs.
Besides participating in works by other choreographers, Patricia Hayes Cavanagh created an interesting short film “Blank Face, Busy Hands”, which focussed on how people express emotion through their hands. Hayes Cavanagh produced a surprisingly lyrical and enlightening result by filming her subjects against a blank wall, which concentrated on just their hands as they expressed opinions on a variety of subjects.
Her dance work, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, was a charming exploration of the interactions between three young people on a road trip, beautifully portrayed by Caspar Lischner, Ruby Ballantyne and Walter Wolffs, all of whom contributed works of their own to the program.
Ruby Ballantyne’s work, “Our Room 17”, was perhaps the most accomplished work of the evening. Focussing on the notion of comfort, Ballantyne incorporated a large bed, a colourful backdrop and five dancers, including herself, in a beautifully realised and inventive work, depicting the charming interactions between the dancers as they shared a rainy afternoon in a cosy bedroom. The work was funny, perceptive and joyously danced.
Walter Wolffs expressed his concerns regarding the treatment of refugees, in an abstract work entitled “Aliens”. The work commenced dramatically, the music was well-chosen and the costumes for the three dancers were thoughtfully designed, but despite some interesting ideas, the choreography failed to convey any clear intent. This was also a problem for Eve Buckmaster and Ursula Taylor who tackled the idea of relocation with their work “Moving Home”, which they performed themselves. Costumed in transparent white boilersuits the two dancers performed a series of intricately choreographed manoeuvres, which while interesting and admirably performed, did not really convey much about their central idea.
Ursula Taylor and Caroline De Wan performed Milly Vanzwol’s, “Critical Point”, a dramatic work which commenced unnervingly with a scream in the darkness. However, despite dramatic sound and lighting, the choreography was unable to sustain the promise of its opening moments. Dancing in Caroline De Wan’s “Comfort Ending”, Vanzwol gave a riveting performance as a person coping with the challenges of approaching adulthood. Performed in a setting comprising a large lounge chair surrounded by four lamps, this work, with its inventive use of lighting and sound, was impressive.
Vanzwol also performed in Alison Tong’s work, “The Infinite Wait and its Three Emotions”, a delightful light-hearted work depicting anxiety, excitement and boredom through the friendship of three hitchhikers. Friendship was also the central theme of Natsuko Yonezawa’s charming short film “Habitus” which opened the program. “Habitus” featured Rifka Ruwette, Alison Tong, Walter Wolffs and Sarah Long as four friends fooling around while exploring dance moves in a studio.
Friendship and inclusion was also at the centre of Caspar Ilschner’s ambitious work “Does School Fit 7.6 Billion?” which questioned how schooling is not suitable for all individuals. Ilschner worked with a cast of six dancers who manipulated three stools in a series of cleverly choreographed sequences, to achieve an always entertaining and beautifully resolved work.
Given that several of the young choreographers featured in this program have ambitions to make careers in dance, “Hot to Trot” not only provides an absorbing and entertaining evening of dance, but also offers a fascinating insight into the future of contemporary dance, and the people who will possibly shape it.