Review: Dancing ‘Birds’ of fancy

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DANCE

“120 Birds”

Concept and Direction by Liz Lea

The Street Theatre, season closed.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens

 

REFERENCING the 120 birds Anna Pavlova reputedly toured with her during her 1929 Australian tour, and brilliantly utilising edited archival film sourced from the National Film and Sound Archive, Liz Lea has fashioned a disarmingly funny and delightfully elegant dance work.

She also assumes the persona of the exotic Madame Lou to narrate a highly diverting history of a fictional “Company Elle” which tours the world in the wake of Anna Pavlova, the Ballet Russes, Denishawn and Ruth St. Dennis. Madame Lou possesses a neat turn of phrase that, when she can be heard above the soundtrack of the films that illustrate the journey, might have ensured her a second career as a stand-up comedian.

As Madame Lou describes their travels, Liz Lea joins her dancers, Ash Bee, Melanie Palomares and Miranda Wheen to perform a series of cleverly choreographed numbers, some echoing influential dance styles, including fan dances and striptease, performed in variety and vaudeville programs also featuring luminaries such as Pavlova, St. Denis and Annette Kellerman.

Contributions by the CDT Burlesque Dancers add to the spectacle, while senior dancers, Toni Allen, Madeleine Bullock, Charmaine Hallam and Glenys Harris add to the charm.

This brilliant production with its elegant settings and costumes and affectionate insights into Australia’s dance history and entertainment taste at the time of Federation should be seen for a longer season, hopefully during our 2013 celebrations.

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