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Communicating through the language of dance

Quantum Leap Dancers rehearse for “Communicate”. Photo: Lorna Sim

ONE of the undisputed cultural treasures of the ACT is QL2 Dance, and the annual showcase by its Quantum Leap Dancers is coming up at The Playhouse. 

QL2 has long championed young hoofers and choreographers, while spearheading a movement encouraging boys into dance. 

It has also seen countless graduates take the main stages of Australia and produced at least one director of a major dance company, Daniel Riley, of the Australian Dance Theatre. 

The 2023 showcase is titled “Communicate” and while dance is notoriously difficult to describe, QL2 director Ruth Osborne and Melbourne choreographer Kyall Shanks are prepared to give it a go. 

As we discuss rhythm, body memory and the growing ability of young dancers to ask questions, the enduring qualities of communication through dance shine out, especially when compared to the spoken word.

“The language of dance holds a special place in this communication world,” says Osborne.

“A language that is felt in the body and soul a lot more than it is understood with the head. A place where emotions and connections are communicated differently, raw and unspoken.”

The challenge is to respond to such ideas in the triple bill format she, as producer, and her assistant Stephen Gow, have chosen.

As in past years, an original musical score has been created by Canberra’s Adam Ventura, blending the three parts into one with three totally different compositions for each work.

The evening will culminate in a smashing finale backed by a 10-minute film-scape from QL2’s long-time collaborator Wildbear Productions. 

The third segment is being partially rehearsed via Zoom by Lordfai Navinda Pachimsawat, creative director of Bangkok Dance Academy in Thailand. She’ll be responsible for both the last segment, performed by eight dancers due to arrive from Bangkok just before production week and for the finale, involving the entire ensemble of Quantum Leapers. 

However, before hers there are two other segments.

First is a work choreographed by Alice Lee Holland, from Townsville, that focuses on physical listening, through the freedom of improvisation, dealing with hearing and not hearing.

Second is a work created by Kyall Shanks, a dancer-choreographer with a wide-ranging interest in inclusiveness and increasing the accessibility of dance through youth and community work. 

A graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, Shanks was co-artistic director of the 2022 Australian Youth Dance Festival and takes an interest in varying body types and dance for people with all abilities, praising the work of Adelaide’s Restless Dance Theatre, as well as work by Chunky Move and Anna Seymour.

Shanks’ section will be looking at codes, sequencing patterns and physical communication generally. While dancers are known to be very good at counting while learning new works, there’s a bit more to it than that and, like musicians, they can get into the groove without counting every beat. 

“There are patterns where bodies are bouncing off each other, shifting against each other in groups, moving in and out… that’s a different way of communication,” she says.

“Language is not the ultimate form of communication. I’m in search of communication… I don’t want people to get stuck. It doesn’t matter what the words are.” 

“Communicate”, Quantum Leap dancers, The Playhouse, May 18-20.

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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