Energy fuels impressive dance works

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“OnCourse” QL2 Dance, at Gorman Arts Centre, until December 15. Reviewed by SAMARA PURNELL.

A SELECTION of university students from around Australia and New Zealand were given six rehearsals with QL2 dancers to create and polish a production of around 100 minutes or so.

That such a cohesive show was presented is a credit to all involved. What makes it even more impressive is that many of them had not met before, knew nothing of the theme or style or music being used by other choreographers and only after rehearsals began, did they see each others’ work.

Local dance practitioner Alison Plevey directed and mentored the performers, with Steve Gow managing and mentoring alongside her. Together they have presented a well-orchestrated and well-organised production, even down to who performs in each routine.

“OnCourse” began with two short films. Part of the beauty and awe in watching dance is seeing the muscles, bones and sinew of the moving body and the tone, strength and movement within the body.

“Kafka”, choreographed by Jason Pearce showed this in detail and again it was noticeable in Mia Tuco’s “I was the Angel in the Poem you Wrote”, an exploration of comfort in discomfort in the familiar and the suffering when separated from that which or whom people crave. “I miss you” was whispered by the dancers, who wore black crop-tops and shorts, with red lighting giving the piece a ’90s contemporary jazz feel. The shadows cast on the wall and the glistening sweat visible on the dancers created an intensity of emotion.

The second film, with its soundscape of gurgling and crackling, had an insidious energy or entity crawling through the corridors of the building and the body moving through it. Similarly, Amelia Vanzwol’s piece had the same feel and look to the movement, where an underground network of tree or vine roots worked together, then struggling against each other as the sound of rain and gardening intensified, before the component pieces came together again in the spotlight.

In “Pushing Up Daisies”, subdued lighting and the costuming created an old-world feel as “Death” gently led exceedingly willing “diers” towards the light. A beautifully moody and appealing soundtrack, included Pink Floyd’s “Time”.

Ruby Ballantyne’s endearing and entertaining piece, “My Roommate is a very heavy Sleeper”, stemmed from an injury she had sustained, giving her scope to focus on the movement of her body during recovery. It tells the nightmarish experience of sharing a room with a sleepwalker. Performed in cute, matching pjs, it was a sweet commentary on intuition and friendship, in which Ballantyne also performed exceptionally well.

Marcel Cole’s solo was a quirky mix of classical dance (with La Bayadere score) and of existential questioning. Cole showed impressive balance and leaps in the classical component (although the space looked a challenge) and a comedic flare as he suffered through the torturous growth of “Learning”. It will be interesting to observe future work from Cole.

“Just Breath” by Lara Dorling was a highlight. In a display about energy use, consumption and transference, distinctive and stylish choreography depicted the dancers struggling to breathe. It could not have been more topical given the last week of heavy smoke hanging over parts of Australia. Tightening the timing within the group to perfection will create an even more impactful routine, that is already edgy and considered.

“Eye to Eye” from Caspar Ilshner, who also, impressively, composed the music for the piece, closed the show. The ethics of persuasion and manipulation inspired the work, performed in attractive orange and white costumes. Steeped in tribal rituals and sounds, “Eye to Eye” was strikingly executed.

Overall, the themes and impressions of “OnCourse” were mostly about energy – kinetic, fuel, resistance to or momentum from it, a force to be pushed against or lent into. Several of the pieces lacked choreographic impact or creative lighting, but all were tightly rehearsed and well performed and considered. “OnCourse” had good continuity – thematically, musically and choreographically, which was surprising and impressive given the scope of the production and the QL2 dancers have done an exceptional job learning and presenting the works.

Cole’s quote, “When you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, you can go in whichever direction you like” resonates, and QL2 and its collaborators have found themselves heading in the same one.

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