“Aida”, Opera Australia at Sydney Opera House until August 31. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA
THE final event in QL2’s 2017 program, “On Course 2017” provided, as it has done for the last 10 years, young dancemakers involved in full-time university dance studies, the opportunity to flex their choreographic muscles and create an eight-minute dance work of their choice.
Originally conceived as an opportunity for QL2 alumni, “On Course” now attracts young choreographers and dancers from all over the country. This year, works by artists from WA Academy of Performing Arts, Victorian College of the Arts, Queensland University of Technology and University of NSW were presented. Five of these were QL2 alumni, others had participated in previous “On Course”, and some were having their first experience with “On Course”. Unusually, five of the nine choreographers were male.
Each participant was provided with dancers, mentoring and rehearsal space for six, three-hour rehearsals over a three-week period in which to create works bristling with ideas and originality. Some took the opportunity to question the validity of dance and choreography, while others were inspired by nature and animals.
Gabriel Sinclair created an amusing, light-hearted work on six dancers. “Just Dance Already” commenced with his dancers arguing over choreographic ideas. Just as they reached exhaustion, they were revived by sounds of disco music. Their sheer joy in dance provided the work with a beautifully resolved climax.
Nasim Patel bought a completely different approach to his questioning with his solo work “A lecture?: questioning importance”. Working to Claudio Arrau’s sublime rendition of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”, and armed with a whiteboard and pen, Patel delivered a discourse linking the death of Harambe the gorilla with the arrival of the first man on the moon. His clever use of contrasting vocal rhythms, provided a riveting prelude to his short dance solo.
Maddy Towler Lovell also used humour to explore questions of the accessibility of modern dance in her work, “Literally abstract”, in which Ruby Ballantyne, clad in dungarees and hat, delivered a very funny David Attenborough-ish description of two dancers executing graceful birdlike movements.
Alexandra Dobson created an impressive work called “Eusociality” for which her eight dancers entered the stage on all fours, monkey-like, in a beam of light. Working to a heavy-metal soundtrack, they then performed Dobson’s strong swooping choreography with impressive commitment and polish.
Thalia Livingstone’s playful work was entitled “Leisure Slug” for which she encased her four dancers in transparent plastic sheeting to create a series of striking images. Jason Pearce also chose the theme of change for his impressive work “B” in which, midway through, his three dancers emerged from plastic boiler suits to reveal colourful costumes as they responded to voice-over commands ranging from frenetic to cool.
Alex Abbot drew on his rhythmic and hip-hop background to create a lovely work on eight dancers entitled “Fly by the Seat of My Pants”. His slow, graceful unison movements were beautifully performed by the dancers, to create a lovely work of impressive visual appeal.
In a similarly ambitious work, “The Parting Glass”, Mara Glass demonstrated her impressive skills as dancemaker, to create a spectacular work on 11 dancers to explore ideas of communication and departure. Clever use of robotic movements, graceful floor work, striking duo work and well-resolved, group movement resulted in a work that was appealing and satisfying.
Though his title succinctly describes his passionate solo work, “Patrick talks at you, then lip-syncs, then you go on with your lives”, Patrick Keogh Walker seemed trapped by his striking, long, white, wedding dress costume with its slowly unfurling train and his soundtrack of John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice”. Confined to some bare-footed Irish jig steps and repetitive arm gestures, the work felt unresolved as to its purpose and intent.
Excellent stage management and lighting ensured the 90-minute program flowed, with each of the works thoughtfully costumed, and exceptionally well danced. As one audience member observed at the Q&A afterwards: “This is the best ‘On Course’ I can remember”. I wouldn’t argue with that.