Review / Dance Week ends with a full house

Dance / “Dancing on the Edge’. Various artists. At Belconnen Arts Centre. Season closed. Reviewed by SAMARA PURNELL

DANCE Week has concluded for another year with “Dance on the Edge”, at Belconnen Arts Centre.

Five performances from local artists presented works, which, overall, had an introverted focus, of self-exploration and analysis.

Jamie Winbank and his collaborators portrayed the feeling of being “boxed in” to an identity, a gender or sexuality. It was a revealing work, both physically and emotionally and powerfully conveyed the feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, of drowning in analysis to revealing your true story.

The audience moved from the light, airy foyer into the theatre for the remainder of the program. Continuing the theme of self-discovery, Debora di Centa and Louise Curham presented a work set to a soundscape of nature and wind and a video projection of a pair of hands and of di Centa dancing in the bush. She was interested in the innate knowledge and movements of our bones, and the origin of motion, even to influence vocal projection.

While the improvised dance was quite meditative, it would not have appealed to all, as the improvised exploration of bodily functions and movement (which is seen more often in dance performances recently), is sometimes better suited to the creative process than as a presentation to audiences.

“A Stroke of Luck” was the personal story of Gretel Burgess, who at age 42 suffered two strokes. Luckily, she has recovered well enough to not only share her story, but to dance it. The emotive portrayal of terror, medical procedures, confusion and recovery was performed with her daughter on stage.

A more lighthearted piece was presented by the Australian Dance Party, building on Party Leader Alison Plevey’s exploration of the elements. “Powering the Dance” was all things orange and all things giving power or energy – from lights, electrical appliances and food to kinetic energy and the spoken (or sung) word “power”.

Enthusiastically performed and humorous, particularly well done was Plevey’s manipulation of one of her dancers with an (orange) hairdryer. Given the stifling heat in the small theatre, “Powering the Audience” was almost required!

Alana Stenning’s “V” idea came to her after a few champagnes. Femininity and gender politics, has turned into an intentionally tacky rendition of the birth of Venus, (Stenning). After emerging from a plastic shell-bath, garnering the attention of the men folk, she struts and dances about, before dousing herself in honey in an attempt at sexy, by which time, she has lost any interest from her admirers and curls up in her shell, distraught and sticky.

Surprisingly, it was a very moving work – as well as laughter, we really did well up with empathy as we watched “Venus” bawling and ashamed. This was in no small part due to Stenning’s entertaining acting and albeit brief, fantastic dancing.

A Q&A held after the show revealed how personal these works were to many of the dancers. As well as Burgess, Winbank and his dancers were telling their own, current stories. Burgess hopes to make a feature length work of “Stroke of Luck” and perform it at Parliament House for Stroke Awareness Week, sharing other stories of brain injury and stroke in people of all ages, drawing on both hope and humour of the people with whom she recovered. Stenning hopes to perform “V” in the future, but next time with confetti cannons.

A full house at the Arts Centre was indicative of the culmination of another full and exciting Dance Week.

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