WHEN Robert Helpmann conceived this version of “The Merry Widow” for The Australian Ballet in 1975, he created the jewel in the crown of the company’s repertoire, an enduring and popular work which has become […]
IT was cold and raining at the Floriade Fringe Festival, held in Haig Park, but that didn’t stop an enthusiastic crowd gathering in front of the stage for the Australian Dance Party’s “Seamless”. Commissioned especially for this festival, “Seamless” was inspired by the theme of fast fashion.Alison Plevey, Eliza Sanders and Jack Riley’s choreography was drawn from stylised catwalk modelling, factory workers, likely in a sweatshop, the pervasiveness of mobile technologies, the manipulation of those within the fashion industry and the perceived pressure on those digesting it via advertising and marketing.
“Seamless” is another social commentary piece that doesn’t break any new ground. Given the experience and age of the dancers, it lacked depth and gravitas thematically. Choreographically it was more complex and enjoyable, playing with pace and dynamics. The dancers displayed balance, strength, focus and stamina.
The calibre of the dancers was highlighted by the choreography, uninterrupted dance passages and the lighting. Riley appeared to be channeling a long-haired Freddie Mercury, but with more muscles and strength, very much on display. Riley is compelling to watch: with more emotional nuance his performances will become even more so. Sanders is an emotive dancer and manages to display both stoicism and vulnerability.
The message and inspiration behind one passage, where Sanders was dressed in a raincoat and Riley and Plevey slowly circled the stage with a bucket of water, wringing out a singlet, was obscure. Another segment, where dancers changed clothes to find the perfect fit was poignant.
Despite the theme of fashion and industry, some of the most effective and dramatic moments came when the performers were clad only in flesh-coloured undergarments.
Projections were cast onto the dancers and backdrop, the lighting being a feature of the performance, especially given the darkness and remoteness of Haig Park. It remained unclear as to whether the visible silhouettes of the dancers changing behind the backdrop was intentional or not, but it amused the audience.
The music volume was unbalanced and unnecessarily loud towards the end of the show.
In what could be a reflection of current social conditioning, when Plevey appeared at the end of the show, walking slowly toward the front of stage, looking nervous, her “vest of lights” called to mind a suicide vest. This bought a sinister juxtaposition of beauty, danger and conflict to the finale.
Ironically, with “Seamless” being performed just days after Kmart launched its “budget fashion line”, a respite from fast fashion, mass production and consumption does not look imminent.