Sydney Opera House has regretfully announced that Spring Dance, Sydney’s popular contemporary dance festival, will no longer be held.
Sydney Opera House created Spring Dance in 2009 as part of the centres annual dance program. For the first three years, it was curated from within the Opera House’s programming team. In 2012, the Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company, Rafael Bonachela, led the program.
The 2012 festival was an outstanding success. Rafael’s inspiring leadership and varied, exciting program were whole-heartedly embraced, giving Spring Dance its most successful year ever. A special delight was the close Sydney Opera House/Sydney Dance Company collaboration that resulted in last year’s world premiere of Contemporary Women.
‘Agwa and Correria’ by Mourad Merzouki, presented at Spring Dance 2012. Photo by Jess Bialek, courtesy of Sydney Opera House
Unfortunately, even after such a successful year, Sydney Opera House has cancelled the Spring Dance program. As part of the Opera House’s current budget planning they have reviewed their projects and deemed Spring Dance as too expensive. Spring Dance was the most high-profile manifestation of the Opera House’s commitment to contemporary dance.
“While we have been happy to make this investment to support an art form that boasts a relatively small but passionate audience, we can no longer continue to commit the funds required to present it on its original scale. Rather than present a diminished festival, we have decided to end Spring Dance on the wildly successful note Rafael Bonachela achieved in 2012,” explains Louise Herron, CEO, Sydney Opera House.
“It goes without saying that this decision has been made for purely financial reasons. In no sense is it a reflection on the truly outstanding work of Rafael and our close friends at Sydney Dance Company.”
While the dance industry morns over the cancellation of one of the country’s most adored dance festivals, Sydney Dance Company and the Opera House plan to collaborate again in August of this year to present the Company in a new work.
“These collaborations are just one of the many ways we intend to continue to work together in the future. And we will continue to present international dance such as Sylvie Guillem and Nederlands Dans Theater,” says Herron.
Photo (top): Promotional image for Spring Dance 2012, courtesy of Sydney Opera House
Drawing on the cumulative life experiences of the company’s fourteen members, Bangarra Dance Theatre’s forthcoming production Blak explores rites of passage – the rituals that mark the transition between childhood and adulthood.
Commissioning emerging choreographer and dancer Daniel Riley McKinley to work alongside him, Director Stephen Page continues his commitment to developing the next generation of Indigenous storytellers.
Both McKinley and Page take their initial inspiration for the work from past fascinations. “For me, the initial idea came from Djakapurra Munyarryran, and the scarring he has on his chest,” says McKinley, “I have danced and shared a stage with him many times since I joined Bangarra and I was always intrigued by what they represented.” Page cites the influence of the earlier Bangarra production Skin (2000) which explored men’s and women’s ‘business’, customs and social issues from both the past and present and considered their status in modern society.
Daniel Riley McKinley. Photo by Jeff Busby
Both choreographers conceive of Blak as less anthropological essay and more personal inquiry. “As a young Indigenous male, I’ve started to question what my rite of passage is, or was, or is going to be,” says McKinley, for whom the broader themes of Blak resonate on a deeply personal level. “In traditional communities, the line between boy and man is so clear. Their level of responsibility changes, as does the way they are treated and looked upon within that community. I don’t feel it’s so black and white for us, as Indigenous males living in urban centres.”
Throwing these contrasts into greater relief, no doubt, was Bangarra’s recent weeklong fieldtrip to North East Arnhem Land. During their stay, men and women were given space to focus entirely on each other and ‘country’. Blak will consequently feature a distinct men’s section choreographed by McKinley and a women’s section under the direction of Page. “Our trip has definitely refuelled and reinvigorated us all,” says dancer Waangenga Blanco, a descendant of the Meriam Island people and of the Pajinka Wik, Cape York.
“After last year’s production of Terrain, which was primarily based on land and spirit of land, the edginess of Blak will stem from the land’s people…our experiences as Indigenous people in this day and age,” adds fellow dancer, Jasmin Sheppard, herself an Aboriginal woman with a mixed heritage of Irish, Chinese, Jewish and Russian descent.
Connecting old and contemporary generations within the Indigenous community is a responsibility the company takes seriously, and balancing this with the competing demands of mainstream audiences is no easy task. “We are the care-takers,” says Page. “Our challenge is keeping a respected relationship with traditional clans and maintaining the integrity from living stories, song and dance, generously passed down to the company as inspiration for our contemporary expression.”
Jasmin Sheppard performs in ‘Riley’. Photo by Andy Solo.
“The spirit of traditional rites of passage is passed down from generation to generation,” Page informs us. “Time and evolution have influenced the spirit of that passage. Blak will explore the spirit reaction those influences have had on us and we hope the audience can connect to that spirit.”
McKinley is excited to be working with his mentor to make that happen. “Whenever Stephen and I have been in the studio together, mainly him choreographing on me, we always seem to connect so easily,” he says. “The process has never seemed forced, and we seem to connect on the same movement and choreographic level.”
He added, “I have always felt that there is an unspoken connection between our creative minds. I am greatly looking forward to being in the studio together and seeing what we can collaboratively create on the fantastic dancers.”
Though Blak is only McKinley’s second work as a choreographer — his first was Riley for Bangarra in 2010 — he has been with the company as a dancer since 2007. He has toured and performed both nationally in the company’s productions Clan, True Stories, Mathinna, Fire – A Retrospective, of earth & sky and Spirit, and internationally in True Stories, Awakening and Spirit, as well as Stephen Page’s Warumuk — in the darknight as part of The Australian Ballet’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Stephen Page and dancers in a rehearsal for ‘Blak’.
Helping bring to life the inspirations and shared vision of the company is composer David Page. Page created the musical soundscape for Bangarra’s of earth and sky in 2010, and also composed for the company’s productions Belong, Terrain, choreographed by Frances Rings, as well as Stephen Page’s Warumuk — in the darknight.
Together with Paul Mac, he has already begun working to bring Blak’s soundscape to life. Of his creative process, he says, “The spirit of the work comes initially from the story tellers, who in this production are Stephen and Dan. As soon as I have that, I start to create sounds and compose music that supports the movement.”
“Apart from being inspired by the story, I begin resourcing and listening to a vast library of instruments, sounds and other recordings. I then slowly create the music for each dance section, keeping close communication with the choreographer. The music must resonate with Bangarra’s unique way of showcasing contemporary Indigenous dance, but also embrace the present, creating a new work that can inspire and last always.”
Together, the artists and indigenous consultants will continue their cultural journey over the next few months as they work to make Blak an innovative and poignant contribution to Bangarra’s already highly-acclaimed repertoire. Though still in the early stages of its creation, Blak promises to carry on Bangarra’s tradition of marrying the urban and contemporary with the traditional, speaking to a variety of audiences whilst remaining deeply personal and spiritual, and helping us see with new eyes the relevance of the lessons of old in our own lives.
Tickets for the world premiere season at Arts Centre, Melbourne, 3 to 11 May and the Sydney Opera House, 7 to 22 June are now on sale. Tickets are also on sale for limited seasons of the Blak national tour at Illawarra Performing Arts Centre in Wollongong, Canberra Theatre Centre and Queensland Performing Arts Centre. To book tickets visit www.bangarra.com.au.
Top photo: Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Daniel Riley McKinley and Waangenga Blanco. Photo by Greg Barrett.
SDC leaps into 2013 with a stunning mixed bill performance in Sydney, before hitting the road to showcase the best in contemporary dance to audiences around Australia and internationally.
Sydney Dance Company’s 2013 season begins this month with the aptly named De Novo, from the Latin term ‘of the new’. Promising to be one of the most exciting dance offerings of the year, De Novo features the Australian premiere of Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman’s Cacti, coupled with the world premiere of Emergence, a new work by Sydney Dance Company Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela. For Emergence, Bonachela joins forces with composer Nick Wales, internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko and fashion designer Dion Lee.
Bonachela is thrilled to bring one of Europe’s most highly sought after choreographers to work with the company’s dancers for Cacti. “I’m really excited to introduce Alexander Ekman to Australian audiences,” says Bonachela. “At the age of 28 he has already created 35 works for some of the best contemporary dance companies internationally, including Nederlands Dans Theater, Cullberg Ballet, Gothenburg Ballet and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. In 2010, he was made associate choreographer for Nederlands Dance Theater 2.”
“Ekman’s Cacti is a totally fresh and engaging dance piece about how we observe art and how we often feel the need to analyse and understand it. Performed with a live string quartet on stage, it is joyful, intelligent and irreverent, and has been hailed by critics for all of these qualities.”
Dancers Natalie Allen and Andrew Crawford in Sydney Dance Company’s ’2 One Another’. Photo by Ken Butti.
Bonachela continues, “I am also thrilled to be working with Nick Wales and Sarah Blasko on Emergence. I previously collaborated with Nick on 2 One Another in 2012, and have been an admirer of Sarah for a long time, as a great artist, singer and poet. The fact that Nick and Sarah are friends and have frequently collaborated themselves, made a perfect opportunity to suggest that they work together with me on the music for a new production.”
Emergence will feature costumes by one of Australia’s most innovative young designers, Dion Lee, who Bonachela is also a huge fan of. “I have followed Dion’s work for a few years and he has also come to our shows, so we have been circling one another,” Bonachela jokes. “I can’t wait to see how he visually interprets Nick and Sarah’s music and my choreography, and translates this feeling to dressing the company’s dancers.”
Following De Novo, the company will take their acclaimed production 2 One Another to Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin in May, and then reconnect with the Australian Chamber Orchestra to present Project Rameau in Brisbane and Canberra in July and September.
“Sydney Dance Company is proud to present the same works in regional centres as we do in the major cities,” says Bonachela. “Audiences everywhere love great dance! It is with great anticipation that we look forward to travelling around the country and engaging with people who may not have had the opportunity to enjoy one of our performances before.”
This year the Company will also take an extensive international tour, returning to North and South America, and present a season as part of Sydney Opera House’s Spring Dance 2013.
Recognised as one of the world’s foremost contemporary choreographers, Rafael Bonachela has provided artistic direction and leadership to Sydney Dance Company for the past four years, and in 2012, also curated a highly successful Spring Dance program for Sydney Opera House.
De Novo, featuring Alexander Ekman’s Cacti and Bonachela’s Emergence, is now running at Sydney Theatre for three weeks from March 1 – 23. For tickets and further information about Sydney Dance Company’s 2013 season, visit www.sydneydancecompany.com.
Top photo: Sydney Dance Company’s De Novo. Dancers Jessica Thompson & Chen Wen. Photo by Ellis Parrinder
It’s hard to imagine the iconic Opera House being turned into one big dance party, but that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday 9th of January.
Blaze, the international dance spectacular, rocked the Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall with 1.5 hours of high-octane music and slick moves to the soundtracks of pop superstars Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and Rihanna.
Since its critically acclaimed premiere on London’s West End, Blaze has gone on to play for sold out crowds in Paris, Berlin and Bangkok where breakers and street dancers are at the top of their game.
Dancers perform in ‘Blaze’. Photos by Dan Boud.
With the continued rise of street dance thanks to reality TV shows, Blaze was guaranteed to delight both dedicated hip hop junkies and beginners alike. Demi Sorono, alumni of the 2008 season of So You Think You Can Dance Australia, is the newest addition to the cast, performing solos in her unique and signature hip hop style.
This theatrical spectacular is adorned with quirky sets: a wall of drawers and fridge doors used as entrances and platforms for dancers to bound across. Costumes are as you would expect: hi tops, sneakers, low slung jeans and street attire.
If you’re after a family-friendly event, Blaze ticks all boxes. The cast literally had the audience on their feet to perform a dance off, which left everyone erupting in laughter. An enthusiastic young dancer was even brought up on stage, to join in a few dance moves.
B-boys from Holland and the US left the crowd’s jaws open with their acrobatic ability and great stage presence. One encore was simply not enough!
Sydney Opera House August 31 2012 As part of Spring Dance
By Renata Ogayar.
Clouds above Berlin was an 80 minute work comprised of two sections: Tilted Fawn and Black Project 1.
Tilted Fawn, choreographed by Melanie Lane, explored the relationship between objects, sound and the body. The dance piece utilised sound and visual props designed with orchestral audio equipment within cardboard like boxes. These constructed architectural formations as the isolated dancer navigated her way through the ever changing space. Though stripped back and raw from the usual dance scenario, Tilted Fawn drew you into an intense space of concentration and spheres of sound.
Black Project 1, created and conceptualised by Antony Hamilton, extended on from the above, yet on a very different, distinct and stylistic manner. The objective of the piece was to transform the space and the environment through physical movements and actions creating visuals objet d’art within the space. This was a masterpiece most certainly driven by the subconscious, steering away from common narrative approaches.
The two metallic like robotic figures featured in the piece moved with precise unison, accompanied with a mechanical sound track. As the music evolved with intensity the dancers progressed through the darkened space and restructured the blackened landscape with white spray paint, exposing white linear designs that completely converted the stage into a whole new world. The lighting design added to the atmosphere and transfixed the audience into a new time and place.
This strikingly apt concept of physics propelled the dancers’ energy into the ever-changing space, demonstrating the succession of actions and their effects on the environment.
To be able to witness what was captured and conceptualised in Hamilton’s mind and to see it executed on stage with all its detail and quantum elements was just incredible! He transformed a blank canvas into a masterpiece.
Spring Dance 2012 curator, Rafael Bonachela, was determined to provide a dance program that was both challenging and inspiring to a wider audience. His aim was to demonstrate that contemporary dance can be accessible, engaging and “for everyone. Dance that is full of joy”.
This raw energy and joy at the heart of dance is evident in the two-fisted work of Correria (running), and Agwa (water) by French choreographer Mourad Merzouki.
Merzouki worked with Rio-based street dancers with the intention to bring their street energy to audiences around the world. In Merzouki’s words, “I didn’t want this dance to just stay on the street. I wanted to bring it to the theatre…use costumes and lights… because for me, hip-hop isn’t just for young people or for the street, it can be for everyone in the theatre.”
The first piece, Correria, explodes on stage with the thunderous percussion of well-known Brazilian song Magalenha,as the cast of eleven male dancers fuse acrobatics, capoeira, hip hop and circus arts to explore the theme of speed and running. With little in the way of sets or props the audience hears film reels rolling whilst a video backdrop plays a jerky silent film of a runner cleverly mirrored by one of the live dancers on stage. The music is an interesting mix of jaunty ragtime, electronica and gypsy music.
Whilst the predominant dance forms are street based hip hop, samba and capoeira, Merzouki seems determined to place the dance strongly on stage without the expected hip-hop music, competitive gesturing and fashion of the associated cultures. Instead, Merzouki seems to be inspired by the aesthetics and music of the silent movie and jazz era.
The dancers convey hip hop’s versatility as they bring a street-based freedom and inventiveness to music as varied as samba, bossa nova, ragtime, tango and even opera.
In contrast to Correria, the second piece Agwa, is more colourful, light-hearted and witty as it comments on the planet’s most precious resource, water. The piece relies on utilising a grid formation to highlight the malleability of water with the choreography following a parallel inventiveness.
Unlike Correria, with its dispersed and almost monochromatic mood, Agwa is a brighter, more optimistic piece where the choreography combines collective regimentation with intervals of individual dancer engagement with the audience. The clever use of glasses of water as stage props and the absence of distracting video backgrounds makes Agwa the more accomplished piece.
While Merzouki is determined to bring the streets to life on stage and remove the more juvenile and commercial elements of hip hop culture from his work, the two pieces seem somehow diluted by the transition.
The removal of all traces of conflict and competition, also removes drama, creating works that undertake wide-ranging changes with no apparent development. Whilst being inventive in some aspects of its vision, the choreography is emotionally unengaging and seems to leave the task of emotional engagement and investment solely with the music.
Eleven male dancers with similar dance styles also remove any degree of dramatic contrast that both works may have accentuated. The limited solo and partner work doesn’t provide sufficient change in the performance dynamic as we wait in anticipation for the burst of passionate innovation to be unleashed.
It’s only during the final breakout piece where the dancers finally seem to revel in engaging the audience beyond the constraints of choreography that we directly experience the hinted freedom and joy in their dance.
One wonders if in translating the vivid language of contemporary street dance culture to the contemporary dance stage something was lost?
Spring Dance Curator, Rafael Bonachela, commissioned works by Emily Amisano, Stephanie Lake, Larissa McGowan and Lisa Wilson for this year’s festival. Chosen “because of their unique talent and different approach to dance-making”, Contemporary Women ticked all the right boxes when it came to creating four innovative pieces of choreography for Sydney Dance Company.
First and foremost, it was exciting to see four of Australia’s most talented female choreographers create a repertoire of works, performed by the best of Australia’s contemporary dancers. Usually we aren’t privileged to see a complete program solely of female choreography.
Kicking off the night was Desire by Queensland’s Lisa Wilson. Focusing on the internal forces that drive us or make us hesitate or waver in action, inspiration came from the interior landscape of body and mind. A brilliant cast including Emily Amisano, Lachlan Bell, Thomas Bradley, Juliette Barton, Richard Cilli, Janessa Dufty and Bernhard Knauer, brought together the landscape of body and mind with connectedness and fluidity of movement.
Photos by Jess Bialek
Fanatic by Adelaide’s Larissa McGowan provided great comic relief and was by far my favourite piece of the night. Using humour and physical expression, the dancers investigated what happens when Alien and Predator movie fans express their emotions through youTube. Laughter was often heard from the audience throughout the entire piece.
Dancer Emily Amisano, who performed in Desire, returned as choreographer for the third instalment of the night, Yield. Sydney based Emily, examined how we come to understand others through their behaviours, reactions and limitations, by considering the balance within a relationship. A playful nature was depicted through the use of props including stools and mats, as well as the expressions shown on the dancers’ faces.
The final piece of the night, Dream Lucid, was choreographed by Melbournian Stephanie Lake. Stephanie asked the audience to consider a modern dilemma. Are we able to be an individual in a society so highly controlled or is our freedom simply an illusion? This was evident to see through the dynamic choreography, and inability of the dancers to escape contact by other artists.
The clever use of lighting for the program should receive a mention. Benjamin Cisterne created depth to the performances through flickering lights, which caused the choreography to appear more dynamic and intense at times.
By the amount of applause given at the conclusion of the night, it was evident I wasn’t the only one who thoroughly enjoyed each performance. Each piece was innovative in its own right, had one captivated by the sheer level of talent of the dancers, and entertaining. Once again, Sydney Dance Company did not disappoint.
iOU Dance Solo Series Sydney Opera House, as part of Spring Dance August 24 2012
By Nicole Saleh.
The Sydney Opera House warmly welcomed Sydney’s best independent solo dance artists to take centre stage for Spring Dance 2012.
The iOU Dance Solo Series featured six home-grown solos by talented choreographers, each performing their own unique work showcasing their versatility as an artist. This solo series was originally created as a tribute to the Io Myers Studio at the University of NSW, where many independent artists research and develop their works. From the rehearsal room to the Opera House, Spring Dance curator, Rafael Bonachela, has given these vibrant artists an iconic platform to share their creativity and artistic spirit to a much wider audience.
The evening started with a fascinating performance of Anton’s SuperModern 2.1, an adaptation of his full length work, SuperModern – Dance of Distraction. Dressed in a plain t-shirt and sweat pants with his feet firmly planted on the ground, Anton’s structured improvisation of his upper body with hectic and repetitive. Shaking and twitching movements from his head to his fingertips seemed to demonstrate the unrest we can feel by the constant bombardment of technology in our lives. Strong and powerful lighting direction enhanced this work, with light streaming onto the stage to form a square box. This conveyed a sense of being trapped, and that Anton was energetically trying to break free. Anton’s choreography and execution was highly engaging, and I’m eager to see how it translates into his full length work.
Martin del Amo. Photo by Jess Bialek
Another highlight of the evening was the simplicity of Craig Bary’s modern choreography, and his ingenious use of a chair in his work titled Awaken Absence for Josh. Craig explored the notion of how you can still feel a presence when a space is empty, as if it should be occupied. A specially commissioned music piece by Eden Mulholland, provided the momentum for Craig’s swift movements. His interaction with the chair was as if this object was a person, and he used all parts of his body from his hands, legs and even his head and neck to glide the chair effortlessly around the stage. His strong yet fluid movement saw him playfully jump, turn, tumble and envelop himself around the chair. Craig’s strong sense of emotion in his performance allowed him to easily connect with the audience.
Martin Del Amo presented two short works. Part 1, Disorientation and Part 2, What Good Is Sitting Alone In Your Room, a tribute to the style of Bob Fosse. In his second work Martin unexpectedly appeared in a short black dress and stuck a series of poses and static movements that mimicked the characteristic silhouettes of Fosse’s choreography. This highly unique work by Martin paid homage to one of the greatest choreographers of our time that has influenced both cabaret and jazz dance.
Bringing a spiritual flavour to the evening was Narelle Benjamin’s piece titled Nobody, inspired by Hindu Goddess Kali. With the jingling sound of bells and use of a sword, Benjamin’s amazing flexibility and core strength allowed her to twist and shape her body into yoga inspired poses and headstands that marvelled the audience.
It was wonderful to see incredible women showcased in this solo series including Kristina Chan. In her work Lost and Found, Kristina sought to find her place in the world. With a strong sense of curiosity, her movement at times was reminiscent of an animal in the way she twisted her arms behind her, along with alert and sharp head movements. Although this work did not showcase fully Kristina’s amazing ability as a dancer, it did strongly deliver the message of being on a journey to discovery.
Kristina Chan presents 'Lost and Found'. Photo by Jess Bialek
The last solo of the evening by Timothy Ohl, was a departure from dance in its purest form, to physical theatre. In this highly entertaining work, Timothy took on the persona of a reality TV star named Jack. Not taking himself too seriously he made fun of pop culture and the need for people to find fame. Essentially he is a ‘jack of all trades and master of none’. Competing to win a reality dance contest, Timothy showed his breadth of dance styles from tap to break dancing and even included a flash back to the era of 80s jazz dancing, complete with a sparkling blue unitard! He engaged the audience through his use of humour and cleverly incorporated technology into his work where he sang a duet on stage with himself on a TV screen. Even though this work pushed the boundaries of dance and entered the arena of physical theatre, the audience appreciated its relevance and gave it the greatest response.
With a varied and eclectic program, the iOU Dance Solo Series has successfully put independent dance theatre on the map for all to see, showcasing the diversity of talent within this dance community. Even in a world renowned venue like the Sydney Opera House, the artists couldn’t resist bringing a sense of local community to the theatre, inviting the audience after the show to join them in the Opera House foyer for a chat and a snag from the Aussie BBQ.
Top photo: Timothy Ohl performs at iOU Dance Solo Series. Photo by Jess Bialek
Sydney Opera House, as part of Spring Dance August 22 2012
By Linda Badger.
This is the kind of show you only get to experience once in a very long while, and it makes so many other things you have seen pale in comparison.
World renowned Belgian choreographer and contemporary dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has teamed up with equally renowned Flamenco dancer María Pagés to create Dunas, making this Cherkaoui’s third work for the Spring Dance festival.
I was first introduced to Pagés work when she was the headline flamenco dancer in the original cast of Riverdance, the Irish/European cultural dance sensation of the 90’s. The passion she conveys in this most recent work, and her belief in what she brings as an artist, imprinted much on the audience. What a privilege to see her perform live! Both Pagés and Cherkaoui are so seasoned and so comfortable within their art form. They are one with their art, not self-conscious or necessarily overtly aware of the audience. Their style is unique to those who have gathered, journeyed, lived and practiced their art beyond perfecting steps, many, many times over. We were absorbed into their world. Dare I say that THIS is why we dance. They brought meaning to it beyond the steps. Watching a performance like this, you become immersed in the story, not just the teller and how correct their telling is. Captivating and thought provoking, the work posed many questions.
The contemporary/flamenco fusion was the perfect collaboration for this project, exploring on the surface the shifting of sand dunes, but under the surface, asking so many questions about life; war, religion, politics -all the big topics. The work artistically embodied a profound poignancy in their approach to their subject matter. It was not overly pointed but made the audience come to its own conclusions. One of the most refreshing things about this work was that even though it was quite ‘scenic’ with definite sections, the transitions were smooth and each part completed the other. Everything was necessary, and, although not all fully revealed in the beginning, it was woven together in such a way that every part made sense or seemed a part of the big picture in the end – the trademark of a truly creative storyteller.
Production wise it was fairly simple. Both performers made several costume changes with Pagés showcasing several beautifully hand dyed dresses by the talented María Calderón. The set, mainly consisting of fabric that acted as a cyclorama and props, was manipulated many times over to accommodate shadow puppetry.
The original score by Szymon Brzoska and Rubén Lebaniegos added that final touch. As with all traditional flamenco dance, the music was entirely live. The musicians were a constant presence on the stage and as equally relevant to the performance as the dancers. Traditional Spanish musicians Barbara Drazkowska (piano), Ana Ramón (cante), El Arabi-Serghini (voz arabe), Fyty Carrillo (guitarra), David Moñiz (violín) and Chema Uriarte (percusión) made a very special ensemble. The music was at one with the dance. Spanish music has such a raw and emotively expressive voice that you can almost tell what they are communicating, making the language barrier a non-issue.
It is hard to write about a piece like this, reducing it to just words on a page. To truly gain an understanding of what this piece is, you must see it. If you are ever in a city where it is showing, make it a priority. It will be worth it.
Terrain, created by resident choreographer Francis Rings for Bangarra Dance Theatre, truly was an incredible sixty-five minute work that transported me into another time and place of beauty and spirituality.
Centred around Kati Thanda (Lake Eyre), Bangarra in Terrain explored the relationship of Indigenous people and the spiritual connection of the lake and its vast landscape. The cultural semiology in every element was profound, powerful and effortlessly beautiful. The movement sequences, costumes, music, lighting and set design all combined, brought this sculptural masterpiece to life.
Terrain was comprised of nine sections representing the evanescent transformation of the promising, yet harsh place.
The first section, Red Brick, looked past the assembled landscape in order to hear an ancestral calling. Setting the scene, the stage was suddenly lit with powerful white lighting that slowly faded out, accompanied by rumbles of lightning and thunder as the dancers entered the space. The simple, yet highly effective, neutral costumes exposed the powerful bodies of the dancers as they moved in a grounded animalistic manner, seamlessly blending from one form to another.
The mens’ ensemble, Shields, reflected the struggle Indigenous people faced with Land Rights and still face today. The dancers proved their masculinity, holding white shields as they executed powerful movements subsequently driven by their signature focus. This section was particularly mesmerizing with electric beats mixed with an undertone of breath compiled with subtle traditional clap sticks creating suspense.
Contrasting the male ensemble was the ladies ensemble, Spinifex. This piece exhibited the style and femininity of the dancers, inspired by the trees that reside in and around Lake Eyre and the spirit women who are suspended in time. The twig like headdresses and long punctuated skirts, with transitory earthy colours, were most remarkable.
Each section contained detailed choreography so seamless, stunning and entrancing that one could not look away. The movements were full of breath and stylish imagery exploring the use of rise and fall, impulse and instigation whilst remaining connected to the terrain of the stage.
The costumes, designed by Jennifer Irwin, were an art installation in their own right, using the landscape of the piece to aesthetically embrace and complement the choreography, bringing it surrealism and life.
The composition of the music delved into the vastness and spirit of Lake Eyre. Violins and cellos captured the beauty of the land while the subtle breath and voices captured the mystery and the spirit of the mystical place.
Karen Norris’ lighting design incorporated a soft fusion of front lights and heavy back lights that brought an element of sincerity to the work, creating mood and ambience to assist in telling the story.
Finally, the set design brought a dimension to the work, capturing the features of Lake Eyre by creating illusions of density and sparseness through nonfigurative forms, textures and colours.
If there was ever collaboration so stylishly portrayed, it was Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Terrain. If you are not familiar with their work, I highly recommended that you experience one of their performances.
Photo: Deborah Brown and Leonard Mickelo in Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Terrain. Photo by Greg Barrett.