Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth took it as a sign that finally the planets had aligned when on opening night life imitated the art of a full moon backdrop transitioning to an eclipse. The exploration of conflicting aspects of the human condition is what unites these stylistically and tonally disparate works. As well as, of course, the commanding ensemble of dancers who are equally riveting performing individually or in unison.
Alterum by Melanie Lane. Photo © David Kelly
World premieres by two Australian choreographers are first up. Melbourne-based Melanie Lane’s Alterum makes a cutting-edge statement, with a hybrid of futuristic and primal elements and an original ambient electronic score by UK artist (Chris) Clark. Its arresting opening juxtaposes a red-washed tableau à la The Matrix against the shadowy primordial first steps of a sinuous figure (the mesmerising Chase Clegg-Robinson). The black trenchcoats and shades symbolise a supernatural second skin that drives us beyond our limits, which is shed to reveal a clinging bodysuit and our bare instincts to connect and protect. There may be a retro nod in this costuming but these are anything but the daggy unitards of ’80s expressionistic modern dance – on these lithe bodies we see the glistening quicksilver of snakeskin and a slinky black panther with crushed velvet fur (kudos to designer Alana Sargent in collaboration with Lane).
Of the three pieces, Alterum most showcases the individuality of the six artists. In particular, it was the captivating feline otherness of new member Tyrel Dulvarie (who graduated from training at Brisbane’s ACPA to Bangarra) that had people talking at interval. Gestural movement ranges from animalistic motifs to pithy pastiches of Instagram poses, bicep flexing, and a foot phone. There’s a tension between regimented uniformity and free expression, culminating in a beautiful closing image. In between though, despite the intriguing movement quality and ideas, a sense of monotony – in part due to its soundscape – crept in.
With recognisable pieces from Mozart and Chopin, company member Jack Lister’s Still Life invites viewers into its psychological territory of art galleries, which can offer us a sense of connection to the past and continuity. Yet they can also be dissonant and confronting places, as characterised by a switch to Emptyset’s experimental exploration of perceptual boundaries between noise and music. Lister has also been inspired by the parallel between memento mori and vanitas artworks highlighting our mortality, and the contrast between the ephemeral and plastic arts. Emblems of impermanence are woven into the movement and Wil Hughes’ sound design: the puff of breath that starts a chain reaction escalating to taps, shoves and running is echoed in whispers and wind then later, thunder. There is also religious iconography. Some aspects of the work sit less comfortably than others, but one suspects this was part of the intention.
Still Life by Jack Lister. Photo © David Kelly
With dance, often afterwards the details are lost but the impression remains, and Lister (who also performs in the work) has succeeded in creating a number of lingering images to reflect upon. However, the poignancy of one section imprinted itself more deeply and fully: an exquisite lyrical pas de deux that was performed with an aching closeness yet without touching.
A shorter work concludes the program – but with the cachet of an Australian premiere by a huge name. Since creating Cult, his first group work, in 2004, Hofesh Shechter has become a worldwide choreographic star.
Cult by Hofesh Shechter. Photo © David Kelly
While its simplicity identifies it as an early work, Cult’s components shouted Shechter’s arrival as a unique talent of exciting potential (he created the music as well). Its quirky use of voiceover and projected text engages immediately, and identifies a desire to find a purpose and make a difference, to navigate the pull between the collective and individual in order to be a force for good. While Shechter’s themes are clear, his execution is subtle and multi-layered, and the structure finds many levels in its dynamic. The costuming of the three women in red dresses and the male trio in brown suits effectively underlines historical and cultural references. The movement varies from pedestrian to symbolic gesture, from intricate and contorted to sweeping, and between slow and explosive. It includes Zorba grapevines, spirals, arabesques and plies that morph into nightclub grooving. The ensemble nails the piece and the unison segments especially are a joy.
ADC has triumphantly validated Shechter entrusting it to be the first Australian company to remount one of his works in full.
Three is on at Playhouse Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane until 29 May