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Canberra Today 15°/19° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Young dancers communicate with pride

Dancers from Bangkok Dance Academy in “Communicate”. Photo: Lorna Sim

Dance / “Communicate”, QL2. At The Playhouse, May 20. Reviewed by SAMARA PURNELL.

FROM the beginning of QL2’s “Communicate”, the quality of dance was striking. It was not a stretch to think of the choreographic style or the quality of Australia’s top contemporary dance companies. Should some of these dancers end up with them, it would seem fitting.

This production was composed of the older QL2 dancers but included many new (or newish) faces.

Every dancer gave an outstanding performance but Akira Byrne, Charlie Thomson and Emily Smith kept drawing the eye with their exceptional skill and presence.

From an unintelligible, galactic soundscape to clear vocalisations, “Communicate” takes the audience on a journey through the various means and attempts to communicate with each other, from touch, the spoken word and sounds, evolving into the blatant representation of mobile phones.

“Holding Space” was choreographed by Alice Lee Holland, who has her dancers performing a series of staccato movements, shaking and jerking in the muted light. Their costumes bear small fluorescent strips, in an attempt to be seen by each other, or found, perhaps by unknown entities.

The choreography was quite different in style from previous QL2 productions, and challenging, both for the dancers, who handled it with aplomb and for the audience. Same, too, for the soundscape, composed by Adam Ventoura.

The dancers experimented with various ways to connect – a touch, a note – sung into the dim light, aggression, reaction. The group responded to notes sung by a solo dancer, to create a moment of harmony amongst the sharp movements and angles of the choreography.

Quantum Leap in “Communicate”. Photo: Lorna Sim

“Echo Chamber” saw the dancers in navy pants and starched, white, short-sleeved tops. The meaning of the detailing on them wasn’t obvious, but with the theme of coding as a form of language, communication and understanding, it may have been a reference to this.

Choreographer Kyall Shanks has given the dancers an interesting and unusual work with challenging rhythms and choreography that the dancers lapped up.  Every dancer had a good awareness of their surroundings, which made the synchronicity impressive.

Thematically the dances were, on the whole, comforting, but the lighting and sections of the choreography gave it a sinister air and with each piece ending with a solo dancer, one wonders: despite our best efforts to connect, are we fundamentally… alone?

Thai dancers presented “Shared Language” beginning in brightly coloured costumes, which soon gave way to nude-coloured undergarments. The female dancers morphed into pretty shapes and formations, with music created by Kevin Inthawong that was more melodic than the previous pieces, but maintained a commonality and easily recognisable themes to tie it to the former works.

Hinting at traditional Thai dance movements, but matching the rigid, synchronicity of the previous works, Lordfai Navinda Pachimsawat has choreographed a beautiful and sophisticated work for her dancers, focusing on ritualistic and feminine connection.

A recurring theme throughout the production was the depiction of bringing the individual back to the group, rather in an attempt to calm and quell their apparent distress, as opposed to stifling their individual expression.

A more chaotic and frustrated work expressed the challenges of modern communication and connection, with hand-held devices representing people being together, but not connected in any meaningful way. The finale saw the Thai dancers join the QL2 dancers in a formulaic display of formations, tableaux and lifts, in an attempt to bridge gaps in language barriers, time and styles of communication.

The final segment allowed the dancers freedom to be joyful and reminded the audience that after the quality and sophistication of what had just been seen, this is a youth dance group, working in collaboration with several choreographers, musicians and with different styles of dance, coming together to communicate with each other and the audience.

A totally misplaced and unexpected sense of pride was felt during this performance, simply from witnessing it.

What a polished and professional-looking performance. The routines were difficult and presented confidently. The standard of dancing was exceptional, the choreographic vocabulary and soundscapes were drawn together beautifully, with nuance and meaning.

“Communicate” is a credit to all involved.

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