Plevey’s dancers draw pure gold from ‘The Vault’

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Dancers Alana Stenning, left, Ryan Stone and Olivia Fyfe in “From the Vault”. Photo: Lorna Sim

Dance / “From the Vault”, Australian Dance Party. Choreographer Alison Plevey. At Dairy Road, Fyshwick, September 20-22. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

AUSTRALIAN Dance Party, under the leadership of Alison Plevey, has established quite a following for its site-specific dance works highlighting matters of social conscience. 

The discovery of a disused building in Fyshwick that was previously a storage bunker for the Mint prompted choreographer Alison Plevey to question the value placed on money, the place of money in our lives and how our bodies become the vaults for the storage of memories, motivations and whatever it is that constitutes us. The result is an intriguing, thoughtful and brilliantly executed dance work.

The set up for “In the Vault” is masterly. The location of the vault was kept secret from the audience until the day before the first performance, when ticket holders were notified of the location by email. 

Upon arrival, each was presented with a key and directed to a dimly lit locked door, where a silent guard, wearing dark glasses, examined the key before allowing the bearer to use it to unlock the door. 

Once inside the cavernous building, red laser lights pierced the blue-lit haze, revealing a large square performance area surrounded by chairs on each side, and guarded by silent, unsmiling figures all wearing dark glasses. A strange electronic buzz provided the soundscape. The atmosphere was as unnerving as it was intriguing. 

A dramatic bolt of light signalled the beginning of the performance, revealing the five dancers huddled in a tight group centre-stage. Olivia Fyfe, Stephen Gow, Eliza Sanders, Alana Stenning and Ryan Stone performed a series of abstract sequences, most having a connection with money. Each wore an attractive, individual costume, designed by Imogene Keen, a combination of post-apocalyptic and shabby chic, but with metallic highlights that flashed in the light as the dancers moved.

For the first sequence they in a tight group, responding to the pounding soundscape, performed live by cellist, Alex Voorhoeve and sound designer, Andy McMillan. When one tried to escape the group, the others menaced him. Coins showered from above, which were quickly gathered by the dancers, who then used them to gamble their new-found wealth. 

One sequence involved a cleverly choreographed Mozartia-style court dance.  Another involved four of the dancers using chalk to scribble their thoughts around the stage, eventually covering the whole area, while the other verbalised hers in a stream of consciousness monologue. Eventually the writings were obliterated with brilliantly performed acrobatic group movements. 

Regardless of what response is prompted in individual observers as to the relevance of each sequence, “In the Vault” is a brilliantly conceived and executed dance work, certainly the best yet from Australian Dance Party and confirms Alison Plevey’s status as an important and original creative voice in Australian contemporary dance.

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