It’s been a long time between (post-show) drinks in a theatre for ADC thanks to COVID.

Australasian Dance Collective's AftermathAustralasian Dance Collective’s Aftermath. Photo © David Kelly

Last night Brisbane’s contemporary dance community was pinching itself at being able to see our flagship ensemble back on a formal stage after nearly 15 months, as well as getting to celebrate that afterwards with an opening night function. We know how lucky we are here; there’s nothing like hardship to forge a new perspective of gratitude.

ADC was just days from premiering THREE last year when the lights went out on live performance, but that setback provided the creative fuel for the fierce reclamation of its rightful place in the theatre that is Aftermath. (THREE will now debut in May.)

The hour-long choreographic collaboration between artistic director Amy Hollingsworth and company artist Jack Lister, propelled by Danny Harley’s epic live sound mix, grabs you by the throat and never lets go. It consciously loosens its grip slightly in sections, but the intensity of Aftermath’s force field is unrelenting.

AftermathAustralasian Dance Collective’s Aftermath. Photo © David Kelly

In response to Harley’s driving beats – generated on a mobile platform as part of the action – and accented by Ben Hughes’ combination of blinding, hazy and shadowy light, the work’s dance style amplifies and refines nightclub moves and mood.

It is frequently hypnotic and mesmerising, veering from gestural and angular containment to throbbing isolations and expansive arms, in solos, duos and group unison, incorporating floor work and lifts, punctuating kineticism with slo-mo sections and freeze frames.

The choreography showcases exciting qualities of athleticism and articulation, each of the six dancers demonstrating interesting individuality yet blending with a harmonious aesthetic. Aftermath marks the welcome return of Jag Popham but also the final season of Jake McLarnon, who, sadly, is retiring. I also found my eye drawn to the powerful presence and physique of Josephine Weise, whose solos are arresting.

As intended, the aural, visual and kinetic immersion had a visceral impact, and as such the involuntary response triggered will vary between individuals. Optimally, it’s a positive stimulation, although for me at times that innervation crossed into sensory overload.

Sonically, there is little respite from the pulsating rhythm of drums and disquieting ambient noises; the introduction of guitar and piano provided the reflective interlude of an engaging duet between Lister and McLarnon but this direction didn’t continue due to Aftermath’s thematic intention.

AftermathAustralasian Dance Collective’s Aftermath. Photo © David Kelly

Its concept is something I expect most people will relate to, and one I find intriguing – when reminiscing with people who’ve shared the same experience, it’s as if we all hold a piece of the jigsaw that will together complete the picture of the memory.

What is playing out is a series of fragmented recollections that will ultimately be reassembled into total recall. There are clues, especially the voiceover at the start: “Do you remember yet?” being inverted before the denouement: “Have you forgotten yet?” However, while passages of movement being repeated are recognisable, their rearranging is not necessarily immediately apparent to a viewer seeing the work for the first time.

This repetition for me led to a sense of the soundscape overpowering the work’s other elements by dictating rather than complementing them, and of missing the intended nuance of the narrative as a result. It leaves one with the sense of wanting a second viewing to fully grasp it, but of course that isn’t practical for most people. Reflecting now, I can identify the devices that were employed to help us put it all together, although they didn’t register as such at the time. Those of us used to looking at a paper program at the performance would best train ourselves to read the digital version in advance for a useful prompt!

Despite my involuntary reactions having made Aftermath a challenging experience at times, it succeeds brilliantly in generating tension and energy and in its artistry and creativity.

Aftermath is at Brisbane Powerhouse until 14 February


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