Emotive routines from young dancers

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Nicholas Jachno in “An Observant Man”. Photo: Lorna Sim

“Escalate IV,” Ausdance ACT at  Ralph Wilson Theatre, Gorman Arts Centre, season closed. Report by SAMARA PURNELL

“ESCALATE IV” offered a program drawn from a plethora of topics – from the Japanese phenomenon of the “lost” millions (hikikomori) to the vital importance of suncream.

A mentoring program presented by Ausdance ACT and directed by Liz Lea, “Escalate IV” allows a group of motivated, ambitious, young dancers to collaborate with mentors working across various artistic platforms. This year Lea and Leena Wall were joined by musician and dancer Eric Avery and filmmaker and “CityNews” Artist of the Year, Kim Beamish.

Most of the performances involved projections or film and others included good use of light to cast their shadows on the walls. At times, the imagery behind the dancers was somewhat distracting, splitting focus between what was being presented live and keeping an eye on the film, but it did fill out the performance space effectively, as there were minimal props and much of the show was solo work.

Where the projection worked especially well was in the first part of Nicholas Jachno’s routine “An Observant Man”, an exhaustive, emotive routine portraying both internal and external processes and expressions of the limbic system.

It was encouraging to see the talent of the young, male performers in “Nostalgia”, in particular Vince Sorilla’s live performance. The topic was heartbreak and although not obviously conveyed through choreography or emotional conviction, that didn’t detract from the skills and execution of the choreography by the dancers by way of a robotic, hip-hop routine.

A female ensemble from Canberra College opened the show, clad in attractive, earthy-toned costumes, with effective lighting and music. The ritual of dance and culture, especially for women was the inspiration for the work, but the topic, costumes and choreography seemed mismatched and the performance lacked conviction, perhaps attributed to nerves.

Favour Wallace performed an African-inspired dance. An able dancer with an accessible choreographic style, she used red fabric and red trainers to striking effect. Wallace was depicted on film, smiling and flicking her hair in slow motion, but simultaneously onstage, she appeared more sombre, casting her gaze downwards. African dance always seems synonymous with joie de vivre so if the idea was contrast or a “change” in self-love, as her piece was titled, more clarity of intent would have been beneficial.

Expressive and entertaining was Courtney Mattick’s “Sunscreen” routine – a literal portrayal of Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen” song. The sentiments are timeless and still a good suggestion of how to do “life”. Mattick performed using lovely transitions between statements, seamlessly moving between ideas using small props and clever choreography. She was briefly joined by the cast who played “extras”, to nice effect.

“The Hikikomori” was performed strongly and assuredly by Silas Manapsal and Tahi Kentwell with good interaction between the  two. The projection of Manapsal’s striking face at times overwhelmed the onstage action which deserved full attention. An overwhelming amount of information and statistics was given on film to drill home the growing magnitude of this isolated and increasingly nocturnal “race”. Effective use of light, darkness and shadows set the mood for this immaculate performance.

Alana Stenning’s “Wolf woman” concluded the program. She set the tone and mood well and the life/death/rebirth concept was portrayed confidently and professionally by Stenning. To begin, she was dressed in a red suit, before surrounding herself with bones and shedding layers of clothes to retreat into herself in a ritualistic, basal depiction of death and creation, perhaps to re-emerge.

“Escalate IV” was an engaging production and a credit to the performers and mentors for bringing it to life.


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