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Canberra Today 8°/10° | Monday, July 4, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The power of dancing from the ground up

Rehearsing “Shifting Ground”, choreographed by Cadi McCarthy. Photo: Lorna Sim

THE idea of moving on solid ground is a contended concept in the world of dance and the title of the coming Quantum Leap triple-bill, “Terra Firma”, puts the question on show. 

As QL2 Dance director Ruth Osborne confirms, while ballet dancers are known for taking flight from the ground, contemporary dancers are “very grounded, using the floor, feeling closer to the ground than in classical”.

Osborne is not choreographing in the annual show at The Playhouse this year, but is instead making sure the three contrasting works fit together under the unifying title.

“We really wanted to establish a sense of continuity, while at the same time emphasising the three different approaches of three different choreographers,” she says.

As usual, the visuals will be very strong with, in the final work, the familiar large-scale moving imagery from Quantum Leap’s long-time partner, WildBear Productions.

The lighting will be by prize-winning interstate lighting designer Mark Dyson, who grew up in Canberra as part of a notable dance family.

“Mark lights like an artist rather than a lighting technician,” Osborne says.

First up on the program is “Metal Park”, choreographed by Melanie Lane, a famous Canberra-raised dance artist whose independent work has been presented at international festivals and theatres such as HAU Berlin, Leipzig and the Indonesian Dance Festival. 

“We are lucky to have her here,” Osborne says. “Melanie’s work is about materialism, the oversupply of everything in our world and how we fill our lives up with ‘things’.

“And, yes, we’ve definitely got a lot of ‘things’ on stage.”

UK electronic musician Clark, for whom Lane choreographed his 2015 and 2017 shows performed at more than 30 international venues, has been engaged as composer on this show.

The second work, choreographed to an original score by Newcastle composer Zackari Watt, is “Shifting Ground”, choreographed by Cadi McCarthy, a long-time dance artist from Canberra who went on to head up Buzz Dance Theatre in Perth then, in 2014, founded Catapult Dance Choreographic Hub in Newcastle. 

Her work, which involves both Novocastrian and Canberra dancers, explores the physicality of solid versus shifting ground, shown to embody the strength and connection that holds us to our world in uncertain times.

For this work, McCarthy has brought four of her dancers in as visiting artists. 

Osborne says: “We like to have visiting dancers and this year we will be collaborating with them on three different works.” There’s also a visiting dancer who comes from Cootamundra every week.

The final work, “Tides of Time”, is choreographed by a familiar Quantum Leap figure, Steve Gow, who trained in hip hop, contemporary and acrobatics and now works at QL2 Dance.

Now in the first commissioned work for the choreographic duo, Synergy Styles, he’ll be working with his choreographer wife Lilah Gow, who’s been seen performing with Australian Dance Party and now also teaches at QL2 dance, the parent company of Quantum Leap. 

“They’ve been married for a long time, but have had different careers and this brings the two of them together,” Osborne says.

The Gows’ work deals with time – the past and future – and the musical score will be by Canberra composer Adam Ventura, whose beats have graced the company’s big Playhouse productions for many years.

Osborne likes the idea of having her dancers, who range in age from 13 to 23, working with different choreographers and composers and praises the stamina of the young people, saying: “I’m loving that they’re working long days 9-to-5 in masks, which is really tiring but they do it to stay safe with their families and with each other.”

The annual Quantum Leap showcase at The Playhouse, the result of a long-standing collaboration with the Canberra Theatre Centre, serves to illustrate why, year after year, QL2 Dance gets dancers into major Australian dance schools and companies.

“Terra Firma”, The Playhouse, May 26-28. Book at 

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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