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.
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.
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.
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.