Review / Celebration of friendship tops dance show

Dance / “Escalate 11”. Curated by Liz Lea. At Ralph Wilson Theatre until September 16. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

Choreographers, from left, Emily Bell, Carly Carter and Melissa Fawke. Photo Art by Atelier

NOW in its second year, “Escalate 11” is a cross-genre mentoring project in which young dance artists are given the opportunity to explore different movement styles while being guided and supported through the three-month creative process by a team of dance mentors. This year those mentors were Douglas Amarfio, Natalie Ayton, Liz Lea and Caroline Wall.

The results of the process were showcased in two performances in the Ralph Wilson Theatre, providing an interesting and eclectic evening of dance, which commenced with the first of two short dance films by Eamon Cross. Cross directed, choreographed and appeared in both.

The first, “Wall to Wall”, filmed in black and white on the Canberra Theatre stage, depicted seven dancers performing an energetic, well-staged, break-dance routine. While the grainy texture of the film made it difficult to recognise the dancers, the complexity of the choreography held the viewer’s interest. Less successful was the second film, “De’s Vu”, featuring four male dancers. Because of the background of strong stage lights it was almost impossible to recognise the dancers, or what they were doing.

The live dance performances commenced with eight urban dancers from the Tuggeranong Arts Centre’s Fresh Faced Young Choreographers initiative, giving a polished performance of a slightly unsettling work entitled “The Hunger Games”, stylishly choreographed by Sarah Etherington and Melissa Markos.

Divyusha Polepalli, a participant in the inaugural “Escalate”, returned this year to perform an exquisite traditional Indian dance solo entitled “Tharangum” in which her expressive use of hands and eyes showcased her mastery of the difficult Kuchipudi technique.

Melissa Fawke used classical ballet as the basis of her piece, “Fractalesque”, which she performed with Marcel Cole to the dreamy piano solo, “Crystalline”. Both dancers possess strong classical ballet techniques which Fawke utilised, along with clever lighting, to produce a work eerily reminiscent of 1940’s avant garde.

Which is probably the reason why Carly Carter’s delightful solo, “Thoughts On a Chair”, which followed, and which she performed to Nina Simone’s “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl”, brought to mind a similar solo that Elizabeth Cameron Dalman performed to a Janis Joplin song many years before Carly was born.

Adding even more variety to the program, Emily Bell turned to the Kander and Ebb musical “Chicago” for inspiration for her sassy solo, “Roxie”, which she choreographed with Leena Wall and Liz Lea, and performed with all the aplomb of a Broadway veteran.

However, the most outstanding work of the night was undoubtedly a beautifully realised, and unexpectedly moving creation called “That Extra ‘Some”. Choreographed and performed by Down Syndrome dance artist Katie Senior and Liz Lea, “That Extra ‘Some” used footage from a short film, “Beautiful”, together with music from a variety of sources, to create an elegiac work celebrating a remarkable friendship. The sensitivity with which the work has been constructed, the unselfconscious trust and joy displayed in performance, combine to produce a remarkable dance work which should be experienced by a much larger audience than will have that opportunity at these two performances.

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