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Short Sweet + Dance Melbourne – Wk 2 & Final

Short Sweet + Dance
Melbourne 2010 programme

Week Two – June 22nd-26th and FINAL June 27th
Chapel off Chapel

By Regina Green.

The second week of Short + Sweet brought ten more entertaining, diverse new works.

First up was Adam Parson’s Kalahari Sunset for The Space full time students. This piece drew on the natural elements for inspiration, and had a really nice sense of dynamics and impulse. So many bodies onstage gave a lot of scope for shape and patterning, and with a little more attention to precise unison the effect would have been even more powerful.

The World is Round was an obscure piece of dance theatre. Dancer/choreographers Rebecca Jensen and Emily Ranford played dramatic but baffling games with colourful buckets, pillows and bubbles. It was kind of mesmerising in its weirdness, and the performers were charmingly committed.

In Self, Sometimes Other, Gareth Hart explored the space in what looked like a structured improvisation. The choreography remained on one energy level throughout and for a solo piece it seemed a little too introverted to really engage. When Hart began mumbling to himself I thought he was about to investigate the idea of internal dialogue, though disappointingly this was only a brief interlude.

Melbourne Dance Theatre’s Bongo Congo was a jazzy group number depicting the rat race of urban life. The black and white costumes were effective, although the dated music choice, flashing lights and thrusting isolations brought to mind an eighties video clip.

Top of the night, without a doubt, was Paul Malek’s gothic drama, Collection of Forgotten Treasures. This was the only piece to create interesting characters, tell a story, and thus give the audience a chance to really connect.  Lights, music, costume and intention were cohesive and developed, making this the most professional, well-rounded creation of the evening. No doubt we will have the chance to see this work again in the future. Special mention must go to twelve year old dancer Alexandra Bircher, who more than kept up with her professional co-performers.

Photo: Belinda Strodder

Simona Grippi brought some Latin action to the party with Dance the Passion. It was nice to have a change of pace and style, though on the night the performers lacked the polish and precision to really wow the crowd.

Nadia Tornese’s Addicted was a hip hop piece exploring addiction (to drugs, judging by the quite literal choreography). Thankfully Tornese had the foresight to use the movement to explore a theme, therefore setting it apart from many other hip hop pieces which blend into one big music video. Her vocabulary also extends to include some contemporary dance, which was refreshing and made for an original – and in the spirit of the festival – “short and sweet” night.

In Adornable, choreographer Elanor Jane Webber and Chimene Steele-Prior explored the “quiet, innocent and dangerous moments alone spent dressing, smoothing, co-ordinating, and peering into the bathroom mirror”. These two strong, confident dancers made beautiful use of an expanse of white tulle and a black silk curtain to enhance the folding, sweeping choreography.

Deprivation Overload was notable for being the most ‘together’, despite being almost completely accompanied by silence. Choregrapher James Andrews successfully depicted the ideas of sensory deprivation and sensory overload.

Miscellaneous Refuge by Jonathon Homsey combined various dance styles to tell stories of why dancers love to dance. The accompanying voice-overs would have been so much more effective with better recording quality, however this was a light-hearted group number and a warm, fuzzy way to end the show.

The Finals

The best works presented over the two week festival were selected to be shown again on the final night, and these were:

Blinding, Kim Adams; Slipped, Martin Sierra; Contained, Caroline Meaden and Alice Dixon; Home, Stephen Agisilaou; Hollabak Dance Crew, Arna Singleton; Collection of Forgotten Treasures, Paul Malek; Addicted, Nadia Tornese; Adornable, Elanor Jane Webber; and Deprivation Overload, James Andrews.

The Awards

The Ian White Management Award for Best Choreography: Paul Malek, Collection of Forgotten Treasures

Best Female Dancer: Ashleigh Perrie

Best Male Dancer: Benjamin Hancock

‘The Space’ Encouragement Award: Emma Vaiano

‘The Melbourne Ballet’ Encouragement Award: Caitlin Wheeler

The 2010 People’s Choice Award: Paul Malek, Collection of Forgotten Treasures

Photos: Photography by Belinda www.dancephotography.net.au

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Short Sweet + Dance Melbourne

Short Sweet + Dance
Melbourne 2010 programme

Week One – June 16th-20th
Chapel off Chapel

By Regina Green.

Short Sweet + Dance:  What a great platform for emerging choreographers and a chance for all our dance graduates to get on stage. The inclusion of a People’s Choice Award is also a fantastic idea, and encourages the audience to think about what they’ve seen. This year’s first week in the second annual Melbourne season of Short Sweet + Dance was diverse and thoroughly enjoyable.

Blinding, choreographed by Kim Adams and performed by students of The Edge Performers School was an impressive opener, with seventeen bodies onstage. It was the biggest ensemble piece of the evening. The dancers had great stage presence, which was heightened by gothic-glam costumes and makeup, and dramatic lighting. Adams’ choreography is pleasantly unpredictable and fresh, and displays The Edge students doing what they do best – punchy, expressive, lyrical jazz-based movement.

Melbourne Dance Theatre choreographer and director Martin Sierra presented two pieces in the programme. The first, Death and Taxes, was a tender pas de deux between Sierra and Stacey Knight. Dedicated to the memory of a family member, this was a heartfelt number. Later in the programme came Slipped, which looked at the different meanings of the word. Sierra’s signature fluid, balletic vocabulary was unfortunately compromised by what appeared to be a lack of rehearsal as the unison was not quite there.  

Cubic, choreographed by Kathleen Skipp for Vital Organs Collective was a high-energy contemporary piece for three couples. With no obvious meaning to or connection between movements , it came across as just a display of technical feats. Some of the partnering was innovative and impressive, however it was too much of the same thing at the same energy level for too long, and just wasn’t ‘together enough’ to hold interest. What the dancers lacked in technique they made up for in attack. Reading the programme notes afterwards, I discovered the piece was based on the 1997 film Cube, which did in fact give it more meaning, as well as explaining the dated music choice.

Lenka Hughes and Tanya-Sue Uschinas choreographed (and performed, with Bazil Boyle) Examine 3.0, which was one of those pieces where the performers start in the audience, thus ‘challenging’ us. Civilians were plucked from the audience and given a giant picture frame to hold as the performers ran up and down the auditorium stairs to Pink Floyd’s On The Run. The dancers were full of personality and were committed to their idea.

Photo: Belinda Strodder

They Weren’t There, a solo by Caitlin Wheeler dealt with the highs and lows of a relationship and internal strength. Wheeler is a technically strong and beautiful dancer and her piece wouldn’t have looked out of place on an episode of So You Think You Can Dance.

For many, myself included, the highlight of the evening was Benjamin Hancock’s solo, Stain. Performed on a small rectangular rug under a single hanging lamp, and in a crazy white leotard that looked like a piece of modern architecture, this was easily the most original work. The soundtrack was minimal, as was Hancock’s robotic movement, which teasingly displayed, without exploiting, his incredible facility. Hancock’s intensity and focus gave weight and meaning to the tiniest finger twitches. Stain was mesmerising from start to finish.

Caroline Meaden and Alice Dixon choreographed and performed Contained, which was nicely lit and full of interesting, quirky movement, depicting ‘the state of waiting and anticipation’. Both women are beautiful dancers, however the choreography felt like two separate solos, and therefore quite disconnected. Maybe this was a deliberate choice in a nod to the agitation felt while waiting, but the piece failed to hold my attention. As a solo and with some more dynamic nuances I think it would have been more interesting.

I Think This is the End (But it Was One Hell of a Ride), choreographed and performed by Josh Mitchell and Kathleen Skipp aimed to dismantle a relationship by viewing it retrospectively. The separate episodes were linked by props – an old leather suitcase and a TV set complete with rabbit ears and static. The rock’n’roll type dancing and kooky French cocktail music of the first episode were a welcome point of difference in the programme, and while the dancers worked well together, some of the complicated partnering seemed a little heavy and awkward at times.

Home, presumably an excerpt from Stephen Agisilaou’s recent production, also explored relationships. The choreography  which was urban, jazzy and elastic, was performed with precision by a cast of five assured dancers. Home had a distinctive freshness to it, making it another highlight of the evening.

Hollaback Dance Crew performed the only pure hip hop piece of the night, which was entertaining but not sharp or original enough to set it apart from countless other hip hop routines that look very similar. However the dancers appeared to be having a ball so it was a nice way to end the show. 

Congratulations to the Festival organisers, choreographers, dancers and the technical team for putting on a brilliant show. Bring on Week Two!

Photos: Dance Photography by Belinda www.dancephotography.net.au

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Jason Coleman’s Dance Jam

By Rebecca Martin.

On December 17th students from Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance took over The Palms at Crown for an evening of spectacular live performances including singing, dancing, and acting.

The Ministry of Dance inaugural concert, Dance Jam, was highly anticipated and tickets to the show were hot property.  Given the hype surrounding the new school the audience was keen to see whether Jason Coleman’s students were going to live up to expectations.  The pressure was also on Coleman to show that his full time dance institution was a necessary addition to the plethora of schools that already exist.

With cabaret style seating, a bar, cocktail tables and lamps, booths, and room for 800, choosing The Palms at Crown to hold the performance sent a clear message that this wasn’t going to be any ordinary dance school concert, it was going to be a professional show.  And rightly so, as the course at Ministry is only one year of full time training, so the dancers performing are about to embark upon professional dance careers.

Photo Copyright Belinda Strodder

Photo Copyright Belinda Strodder

The show opened with a single dancer on stage with a microphone.  She stood downstage and spoke about being a dancer.  Her monologue finished with the words “I am a dancer” at which point the otherwise bare stage was flooded with the remaining 65 dancers of the school who were all repeating the words “I am a dancer”.  The sheer number of dancers on stage speaking, rather than dancing, was hypnotising and the audience instantly knew they were about to experience something special. 

Jason Coleman strode onstage as the dancers exited and began a monologue.  He told us that dance students could go to a ballet school and be a ballet dancer, go to a contemporary school and be a contemporary dancer, go to a jazz school and be a jazz dancer, or go to his school and be a dancer.  He told us that the ballet at his school was real ballet, the jazz was real jazz and the hip hop was real hip hop.  He shared that the dancers graduating from his school were fluent in all styles of dance as well as singing and acrobatics and then began a showcase of the variety of styles the dancers had learnt, as well as championing the professional gigs they had undertaken during their year at Ministry. 

The first pure dance piece of the night was Stephanie Tulloch’s Fuse & Frolic which was a contemporary piece that had strength in numbers and was one of the evening’s highlights.  Almost all of the school’s 66 dancers poured onstage to the sounds of Irish music and the combination of fluid choreography, use of lighting to create silhouettes and the incredible competency of the dancers made this piece a sensory feast. It was an excellent beginning to the show.  Students Tim Barnes and Jayden Hicks were an instant standout and almost overshadowed the ensemble.

Piece three was a jazz number by Sue-Ellen Shook with excellent choreography and flawless execution from the dancers.  Their precision and timing was ‘spot on’ and their energy was high.  This style of dancing was a better fit for the dancers, hinting that they were either primarily jazz dancers or that a lot of their training is focused on this style.

By the time the tap shoes were pulled on and seven of the dancers performed their own choreography to It Don’t Mean a Thing the atmosphere was electric and the audience was clearly enjoying the show.  The enthusiasm and personality of the dancers in this piece was inspiring and the choreography showed great promise.

Photo Copyright Belinda Strodder

Photo Copyright Belinda Strodder

Next came a ballet performance, The Palace by Claire Campbell. Again, Barnes and Hicks shone with strong technique and confident execution and while the piece was lovely overall, it lacked a little energy. It was sadly the only ballet piece in the night’s programme.

The classical dancers were ushered off stage by Paul Davis’ tap piece Lose Control. The number showed why Paul Davis is one of the best in the business with his unique tap style and innovative choreography.  His piece almost had the audience on their feet. 

A beautiful contemporary piece from Paul Malek reminded us why he is such a successful choreographer.  His piece, You and Me brought the momentum of the show to a halt and the audience caught their breath. The dancing was calm, lyrical, and emotive with a feeling of loss and searching. 

A collection of songs from the musical Chicago exhibited the vocal talents of the school and proved that the strength of the Ministry students lies not only in their technique but in their showmanship.  The young Robert Moorcroft showed great potential as one of the few men in the piece. 

Photo Copyright Belinda Strodder

Photo Copyright Belinda Strodder

The year’s scholar Mitch Fistrovic was mesmerising in a contemporary pas de deux to live piano and vocals to The Beatles’ Let It Be.  Fistrovic’s talent and artistry were exceptional from the onset and showed the audience that he was worthy of the award.  This piece could have easily veered into cheesy territory, but instead was all class and goosebump inducing.

The production itself was smooth, albeit late running.  The transition between each piece was flawless with no breaks and subsequently no opportunity for the audience to get restless.  Coleman’s students should be applauded for their stamina which did not falter at any stage of the difficult programme.  The final few pieces continued in the hip hop and jazz vein with one piece incorporating the use of an oversized boom box which implored the audience to turn it up and they couldn’t refrain from doing so as the cheers and applause increased.  By the conclusion of the performance, Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance had shown that dance is cool, fashionable, and relevant.  But of course, we already knew that, and if any of the audience didn’t they certainly left the venue with the knowledge.

The night’s programme stayed true to the formula of So You Think You Can Dance.  Each of the pieces was entertaining and showed the dancers in fine form. It seems that Ministry of Dance’s forté is in training dancers who can perform a variety of styles and excel in hip hop and jazz.  Such is the climate of dance in Australia, given the influence of music videos, pop music and dance shows on television.  The professional experience the students received during their time at the school was evident and will no doubt hold them in good stead for their future careers. 

Congratulations to Jason Coleman and his Ministry of Dance on an outstanding performance.

Check out the Image Gallery for more photos from the night.

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Contemporary Masters Series 2009

Contemporary Masters Series

Young Performers Australia is delighted to announce that leading US artists Jaimie Goodwin and Dana Wilson are coming to Melbourne and Brisbane this December. The talented two will teach contemporary, jazz and hip hop workshops, sharing their passion and love of dance and choreography with Australian students and professionals.

Dance Informa spoke with YPA Director Eddie Hobson about the exciting Masters Series.

1) Why did you choose to bring Jaimie and Dana out to Australia? What can Australian dancers learn from them?
Jaimie Goodwin is considered to be one of the best female dancers in America. She has countless credits to her name including the New York City Dance Alliance 2006 National Outstanding Dance Award. One of the reasons I chose Jaimie is that she will give Australians a very special and privileged opportunity to experience her “technique class”. It is based on the training she received at Denise Wall’s Dance Energy, the same studio that produced Travis Wall and Danny Tidwell. Dancers from all over America go to study with Denise Wall. Jaimie is an experienced teacher, having taught at the studio and at conventions across America. Since being a Top 10 Finalist on SYTYCD Season 3, Jaimie’s professional career has taken her to Europe with the Bad Boys of Dance and onto the movie set of High School Musical 3.

Dana Wilson is one of the most versatile dancers in America and will bring a wealth of experience to Australia. She has assisted Marty Kudeka and performed on Justin Timberlake’s world tour and My Love music video. She has also assisted Wade Robson on many projects including SYTYCD and, most recently, Cirque du Soleil’s Believe. She is a loved and admired teacher on faculty at NYCDA, America’s largest dance convention and competition organisation.

Jaimie and Dana have vivacious, encouraging and inspiring personalities and will bring fresh and exciting choreography to Australia.

2) What can dancers expect from the classes? 
Dancers can expect to experience a style of contemporary dance that reflects the latest developments in the US. Contemporary dance is a constantly evolving genre. I’ve just spent the last year in New York City and have witnessed a whole new way of moving. 

The dancers who come to YPA’s workshops can expect more than a dance class, they will get an incredible experience. They will get world class teachers, innovative choreography and plenty of space to dance – all at the lowest possible prices.

Most of YPA’s future tours are going to adopt the American style of convention teaching – large spacious venues, with a stage and a screen so that everyone has plenty of room to dance and can see and hear everything. I’ve taken too many workshops where the organisers have packed us in like sardines. It gets to the point where I’m not able to enjoy taking class for fear of kicking someone in the face, or being kicked! I am utilising my experiences as a dancer to make these workshops as enjoyable and educational as possible.

At the workshops there will also be short performances by our guest teachers, and an opportunity to meet them after class.

3) How does YPA help Australian artists? 
YPA has two principal aims: to encourage cross-cultural links between Australia and America and to provide educational resources and opportunities to aspiring performers. I’m aware that many Australians cannot afford the cost of going to America to take classes or they are too young to make the journey alone. So if they can’t make it to NYC, we’ll just bring NYC to them!

We are also starting an outreach division of YPA which will be working with the community to give opportunities to talented underprivileged youth. 

4) What are your plans for the future?
YPA has big plans for the future. We have five tours in the pipeline for next year with Emmy and Tony award winning choreographers and faculty from NYC’s top dance schools including Steps on Broadway, DNA, Alvin Ailey and Broadway Dance Center. The range of workshops will be diverse, including Broadway Jazz, Contemporary, Jazz and Hip-Hop.

Register now for the Contemporary Masters Series!
Visit www.youngperformers.com.au and book online.

“A class with Dana Wilson is not to be missed. I thoroughly enjoyed her hip hop class at NYCDA. Her choreography was fresh, fun and innovative. She is a brilliant teacher and so very down to earth.”
Deborah Searle, Director of Dance Informa.

Email Dance Informa with your name, address, age and why you should win.
Please note that prior dance experience is essential for all workshops.

Dance Informa is a proud supporter of YPA.

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Save the last dance…

Black Marrow. Photo Copyright Werner Herzog

Black Marrow. Photo Copyright Werner Herzog

Chunky moves into the marrow with two of Europe’s brightest dance stars.
By Paul Ransom. 

 Erna Omarsdottir and Damien Jalet have come to the other side of the world to create a dance for the end of civilisation.

When genre defying dance company Chunky Move commissioned two of Europe’s best young contemporary choreographers to create a work for the 2009 Melbourne Festival they could scarcely have been expecting the apocalypse. With Black Marrow, however, Omarsdottir and Jalet are concocting a work steeped in eco consciousness, science and mythology.

If that sounds like challenging terrain, consider that Black Marrow is a follow on from an ambitious project the pair created in Omarsdottir’s native Iceland earlier this year. “We wanted to do something that was like black and white with these two projects,” she explains. “Here we are more speaking about the end of civilisation whereas in Iceland it was more the beginning.”

Belgian Damien Jalet picks up the thread, “It’s a bit like alpha/omega. Iceland was the origin and Australia could maybe be the end of world,” he muses. “We’ve come to the other side of the world to a place that has some common points with Iceland. Australia is a big island with a lot of pagan mythology attached to it and it’s uninhabited in the centre. And also it kind of reminds you of what the world would have looked like before civilisation, before humans developed cities and dominated nature.”

However, Omarsdottir is keen to point out that the work is not all doom and gloom, nor is it a lecture. “We are trying to do something more poetic; so the piece is not about the end of world but it’s inspired by how human beings relate to Mother Earth. But also it’s inspired by scientific facts and spirituality and mixing those two things together and creating our own personal mythology.”

Okay, so you’re probably thinking that this sounds like pretty dense material for a dance piece and the obvious next question is, given all this ‘text’ how will audiences ‘get it’? Fortunately, Omarsdottir and Jalet are well used to the challenge of creating class leading contemporary works, with the former having been awarded Best Young Dancer and Best Young Choreographer by Ballet International and the latter bringing a broad based performing arts palette to the mix. Their approach, therefore, is partly to ignore the boundaries.

“How we have been working in the last year is not thinking of the project as just a dance piece but just a piece, or an artwork,” Omarsdottir says. “One of the good things about working in contemporary dance is that it’s quite an open forum.  There are much less taboos and barriers, and you are quite free to do anything you feel like doing.”

Which is why Black Marrow will include text, song and elements of theatre? ”We want to have this freedom to say that just because it’s a dance piece we don’t only have to use physical language,” Jalet underlines.

Black Marrow. Photo Copyright Alexandra Mein

Black Marrow. Photo Copyright Alexandra Mein

Whatever else inspires them, the very un-European landscape of Australia has certainly lit a fire under the pair. Having first come to Melbourne a couple of years ago to do workshops with Chunky Move, they were very excited to accept this year’s commission and to re-acquaint themselves.

“There’s something great about being at the other end of the world,” Jalet enthuses. “Australia, like Iceland, is a place where there is a strong wilderness and where, if you go into the wilderness you can experience something like what it was like when man didn’t control everything. It’s a kind of humility lesson.”

Even though they somewhat sheepishly confess to not have ventured beyond the city – “except on film,” Omarsdottir laughs – they are adamant that the ancient nature of the continent perfectly fits the motifs of their work.

Indeed, of dance itself, Damien Jalet argues, “It’s the first art actually and it’s very primal and we definitely play a lot with this primal aspect … People think this is dance, this is theatre, this is music but in the beginning it was all the same thing. It came all from the same source.”

Erna Omarsdottir concurs, adding, “Often it’s something you don’t have to learn. It’s in the body from birth, like when you see small children. When they hear music and beats they start doing things with their bodies by instinct.”

Here then is context for marrow; that being the innermost, the most essential, the pith. And further to that, the black marrow, Jalet contends, is oil. “It’s a very ancient, prehistoric material that’s also like the juice of ancient life forms. We use it today as like the blood of our civilisation and something that we are completely addicted to.”

For all this talk of environment and civilisation in crisis, Black Marrow still seeks to entertain, to take audiences into an instinctive space rather than a strictly intellectual one. As Erna Omarsdottir concludes, the production is “more like poetry than a political message and even though it is speaking about things which are maybe not beautiful there is still beauty in the ugliness.”

Black Marrow, presented by Chunky Move, premieres at the 2009 Melbourne Festival this October.
Date: October 21st-24th
Venue: the CUB Malthouse, Merlyn Theatre
Contact: m-tix.com.au 9685 5111

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Short Dissertations on Sleep

Walpole & Sister
July 19th

By Paul Ransom.

“Sleep is invisible because we do it with our eyes closed.”

Or so goes the standout line from Grace Walpole’s  latest fact driven fusion of science and dance. By delving into the nightly mystery of sleep, Melbourne’s magical medical doctor of dance has created an intriguing piece of theatre. But is it dance?

Short Dissertations on Sleep is effectively a fifty minute lecture about brain states, slumber and the city. And as such it is utterly fascinating. However, rather than present us with a mere march-past of mind boggling data, Walpole leads us through a brilliantly factual but crisply metaphoric process, drawing wonderfully clever parallels between brain waves and architecture, between giraffes and dance.

Minimally lit, this solo show places Grace Walpole on a train journey through the night, where, watching her fellow passengers nod off, she poses the question: what is sleep? On a bare stage she scrawls notes on her blackboard and, accompanied by pre-recorded audio, talks us through the darkness. Oh yeah, and every now and then her presentation is punctuated by outbreaks of dancing.

And here’s where we come back to our question. Adding ‘dialogue’ to dance is nothing new, and fitting dance into a structure more like physical theatre is clearly a challenge that many choreographers relish. Short Dissertations is certainly in that zone. Here, the distinctions are pretty well nought, as Brain States 1.01 meets Samuel Beckett with a touch of good old fashioned German Expressionism. And dancing, of course.

That Walpole only performs a handful of short routines makes you wonder whether this is a dance show at all. Maybe it’s avant-garde theatre or a med school smorgasbord. Doesn’t matter; Short Dissertations is a quirky and fascinating vignette.

When Dr Walpole finally kicks off her shoes to move, she keeps it in a minimal contemporary vein. Her ‘giraffe’ piece is sinewy and vaguely uncomfortable and is the choreographic highlight. The music, on the whole, remains crisp and abstract, with some very adult electronica in evidence.

Grace and her sister Helen are clearly architects; builders of theatre using science to forge intellectually idiosyncratic art. It’s challenging, even daring stuff; and it really doesn’t matter what you call it.


Very top photo: Walpole & Sister

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