“ESCALATE” is a dance mentoring program initiated by Ausdance ACT to assist and guide young choreographers and dancers through the process of creation from initial concept to the presentation of an eight-minute work. The participants are allotted a professional mentor to help in the development of their work, and participation from all styles of dance genres is actively encouraged.
The mentors for the inaugural intake of young dance-makers were Liz Lea, Douglas Amarfio, Paul Knobloch and Caroline Wall. The works originating under their mentorship, together with two short films, were given three performances in the Ralph Wilson Theatre as part of the You Are Here Festival.
The first work on the program entitled “Mix It Up” was choreographed by Liz Lea and Caroline Wall on dancers, Hikma Aroub and Tapaita Kalamfoni to the music of Ed Sheeren’s “Shape of You”. Alternating hip-hop influenced unison and solo sections the dancers impressed with their strong individual personalities and movement styles.
Cowra choreographer, Hayley Barker, working with dancers Grace Gallagher, Brigette Healey, Imajen James and Jess McLeish, chose the haunting Bernard Fanning song “For My Soul” on which to create a lyrical work exploring isolation and loneliness. Strikingly costumed in slacks and tops, the four dancers worked particularly well together to interpret Barkers’ carefully constructed choreography.
Working to a Rihanna compilation, Canberra choreographer, Mikayla Brady, also utilised four dancers, Marcel Cole, Elliott Dunn, Sabrina Madaffari and Olivia Smith to create a polished work entitled “Love on the Brain” in which she also danced. Incorporating elements of classical ballet, acrobatics, contemporary, and unexpectedly, tap dance, Brady and her impeccably groomed dancers managed to effectively incorporate a story about a girl dealing with the attentions of two brothers, in a work particularly notable for its sophisticated use of the dance space.
Joined by dancers Amy Macris, Nishi Raj, and Archana Sany, choreographer, Divyusha Polepalli combined classical Indian “Kuchipudi” technique, with the contemporary rock-inspired music of Krishna Janakiraman & Agam to create a joyous work entitled “Thillana”. The four gorgeously costumed dancers fascinated with their command of the technique in an artistic work which successfully tested boundaries.
Seventeen year-old Charlotte Whiter utilised both classical and contemporary techniques to create sophisticated, lyrical work, to a composition by Max Richter, entitled “Luminous”. Her four impeccably groomed dancers, Clare Flood, Taylah Matesa, Lizzie Rice and Stephanie Zaal, costumed in flowing black lace costumes, combined beautifully to perform this carefully structured work exploring the bond between sisters, which culminated in a touching finale in which one sister is left alone in the spotlight.
The final performance was in complete contrast, with choreographer, Jacob Brown, exploring different styles of urban genre with his dancers, Kajsa Davis, Emily Prior and Ciahne Olsen. Utilising music from a variety of sources, Brown joined his dancers to create a series of inventive duets, trios and quartets, and an impressive solo for himself.
In addition to the works performed, two short films, “Travelling Light” by Natsuko Yonezawa, and “Blink” by Nasim Patel and Luke Fryer, were shown. Both utilised dancers to explore abstract ideas.
As impressive as the showcased works were, the success of the initiative will be measured in what the participants take away from the experience. Because in addition to assistance in creating dance works, they are also mentored in a myriad of dance career objectives including career development, audition preparation and health and safety issues. Applications for the next round of “Escalate” close on April 27.
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Ian Meikle, editor