RUTH Osborne’s Quantum Leap Ensemble explores the dynamic relationship of body and architecture in its big annual show at The Playhouse, “Filling the Space.”
The dictionaries have a few takes on the concept of space – room, expanse, capacity, area, volume, scope, leeway, area, footprint, stretch, sweep, tract or the blank between printed words.
More helpful in understanding the new dance show is this: “The dimensions of height, depth and width within which all things exist and move.”
That seems to best fit the triple bill put together by Osborne, artistic director at QL2 Dance, and Steve Gow.
Choreographed by Osborne with QL2 alumni James Batchelor and Eliza Sanders, the new work is intended to “open the frames and borders that guide our movement in and out of space/s and playfully manipulates our emotional relationship to them”.
Put in more practical terms: “The theatre stage becomes a world of potential, of space filling and emptying, of new cosmic dances.”
It’s an impressive ensemble of dancers – 39 so far, Osborne says, including two from the Bangkok Dance Academy, a relationship that’s been going for 18 years, and Angus Onley, from the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, who brings circus skills as well as his ability to dance.
The lion’s share of the choreography, Osborne says, will be taken by Batchelor, who has been assigned a huge piece of about 40 minutes in length.
Starting with architecture, Batchelor looked at The Playhouse stage from different perspectives to see how things work and what effects aesthetically and artistically can be achieved.
The Playhouse is an emotional “drawer” for him, Osborne says. He’s been doing projects there for years so there’s something about the technical aesthetic and emotional aspect he cares about in that space. His piece will be called “Proscenium”, but we will see beyond the proscenium.
Sanders is the second guest choreographer – “a beautiful dancer, interesting and very individual,” Osborne says.
“Sometimes you meet dancers who are individual and you know they’re going to make a difference.
“Young people who join QL2 find their voices and are confident about questions and able to speak up.”
It’s the third time she’s been asked to choreograph for QL2 and her work, “The Shape of Empty Space”, is a 15-minute piece with 14 dancers, a much larger ensemble than most independent choreographers get to work with.
“Because of financial contingencies, usually they only get to work with two or three dancers and experience of choreographing with large groups is fabulous. Eliza’s is an abstract work, different and emotional,” Osborne says.
The third piece in the triple bill is Osborne’s own work, a 10-minute piece called “Naturally Man-Made”.
Osborne came to Canberra in 1999 to head up Quantum Leap, a youth program within the choreographic centre, but when the centre closed, she formed QL2 Dance, the organisation in which all her programs sit. But she still likes to be in the thick of the choreographic experience.
She’s taken “Naturally Man-Made” to the Australian Youth Dance Festival International in Melbourne, where they performed alongside international companies from Ghana, Singapore, England, Scotland, Finland and Denmark in the Melbourne Meat Market.
Wild Bear Entertainment, who has long supported QL2 Dance in its big, annual productions with sophisticated moving backdrops, has made a film with the dancers, so when it gets to The Playhouse, there’ll be a mix of live dance and cinematic background.
“We will be stretching out the ideas of space,” says Osborne.
“This kind of project brings out the best in people.”
“Filling The Space”, The Playhouse, August, 8-10. Book at canberratheatrecentre.com.au