Let me preface this by saying: “I am not a dancer, nor an expert in dance! I do not move gracefully; and I do not have a clue when it comes to the technical element of dance.”
However, I do understand the ability of physical movement to move people emotionally; and Dancenorth’s Tomorrow Makers certainly does that.
The show, which opened last night, is an exploration of tomorrow and beyond. Dancers were invited to step into the role of choreographer and rewrite dance by investigating improvisation, subculture, movement, composition, energy and information.
Before the official program began, we were treated to a preview of Lionheart by well-known dancer, choreographer and Dancenorth’s Disability Ambassador, Chris Dyke. Chris’ piece was the perfect frame for the show we were about to see; exploring the relationship between courage and fear with beautiful honesty and vulnerability. Chris’ contrast of paralysing fear and uninhibited movement, gave me – and I suspect many others in the audience – pause to reflect on just how often we allow the deafening beat of our racing hearts to get in the way of our own strength. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” was the quote that worked its way into my brain as I watched Chris move across the performance space. Lionheart is a spectacular show in its own right, and is a piece that Chris, mentor Kyle Page and Education and Outreach team Susan Van Den Ham and Jessica Deveroux should be extremely proud of.
The official program opened with Free Dive, choreographed by Ashley McLellan. And free it was, performed in total silence – the audience was left guessing where the performers would travel across the stage, and the speed at which they would move. Whether they were spread out or intertwined, it was clear from this first piece that the ensemble were well in-sync: their movements all may have been different, but they complemented each other and married together at one stage to move towards us as one human machine. The piece, exploring what the solo may be, saw the dancers dotted across the stage, moving to their own rhythm in their own style, and ensured that the audience never made assumptions – that we understood each movement had the possibility of continuing in any direction.
Together Indecision by Mason Kelly and Georgia Rudd is a beautiful duet, which I (Sarah) personally interpreted as an evolving relationship from total co-dependence, to independence, to trying to ‘fit’ back together, and finally accepting co-existence as individuals. My interpretation is not what Mason and Georgia had necessarily intended, but I think that is a perfect example of how powerful contemporary dance can be in affecting inward reflection. Mason and Georgia’s movements were very much chaotic parallels; at times mirroring each other perfectly, before they would break apart to become their own beings, and then fly (literally) back towards each other to explore ways of stitching their differences together.
It is at this point that we have to applaud the incredible work of Lighting Designer Thomas Roach; the use of hanging fluorescents, a backlit wall, lights around the performance space and then the incredible use of the side-stage curtain to create shadows was all breathtaking, and really well-utilised in this performance. There were times in Together Indecision where the entire Studio was in darkness, with one beam of light streaming in from off right, illuminating the silhouettes of the performers and strengthening the impact of their movements. Never before have I experienced such an array of lighting techniques in one production that all fit so well with the emotion conveyed by the performers, and which made several audience members around me all ‘oohh’ and ‘aahh’ in agreement.
Psycho: Act IV was choreographed by Harrison Hall, and ramped things up a notch: we were treated to the Dancenorth ensemble both dancing uninhibited before dancing in perfect synchronisation. No person was out of time; each movement was fast and flowing; no one could tear their eyes away. There was an atmosphere of being at a party for this performance – you could sense the initial remoteness of each dancer, before the music brought them together and made their movements wilder and other-worldly. The performance was also a sensational comment about the influence media has on shaping culture, and poses the question: does the media reflect society, or does society reflect media? Where does the cycle begin and end?
Footage of Tomorrow Makers rehearsal. FILM MAKER: Robert Crispe.
The five-minute interval saw the Studio blush, with lights turned ruby ahead of Body Like a Neon Sign by guest choreographer from Melbourne and Rehearsal Director, Paea Leach. One take from this is that it was an interesting look into the life of a dancer, and how passion can become more of a chore for career artists. Movement was treated with its own level of reverence, showing that not only is it a language in its own right, but it was here long before and will stay long after any spoken word. For this piece, Paea drew on her Master of Fine Arts research into embodiment to showcase how dancers are ‘in’ their bodies and that we are multiple. The performance was both soulful and unforgiving, and finished by bringing the dancers back to a bare, grassroots, playground-like chase across the performance space.
Baby Heaven Love Voice. The final piece for the night, choreographed by Jenni Large, and one which I am unashamed to say was my favourite. I had read through the program ahead of this performance, and so knew to expect one of three legendary ballads to accompany the piece. The repetition of the performers’ movements enthralled me, and had me beginning to think how the songs would accompany the movements – before Farnham echoed out from the speakers and my musings were answered. Jenni’s piece reflects the usage of repetition over time – while this performance may seem improvised at first, by the third repetition you notice the incredible level of structure and precision behind it, despite there still being elements of difference and nuance. The audience sees the performers swap outfits with each other several times throughout, which adds to the question posed by Jenni: is it through comparison that we find meaning? If you aren’t singing along with the cast by the end of this performance, I would be surprised.
What should we expect tomorrow? What, even, should we expect 10 or 20 years from now, when the artistic reins of Dancenorth are handed over to the next generation of choreographers? If Tomorrow Makers is anything to go by, we are in for an invigorating and exciting future of creativity. One line from the choreographers in the Tomorrow Makers program stuck with me, and is a perfect summary of what dance, and creativity as a wider concept, is all about: ‘We have permission to rewrite what dance is daily, even moment to moment.’
Our heartfelt congratulations go out to Ashley, Chris, Georgia, Harrison, Jenni, Mason, Paea and curator Kyle. Dancenorth is recognised not only around Australia, but internationally as a state-of-the-art dance company. Look at the backgrounds of its dancers, hailing from major cities around Australia and New Zealand: the fact that these professionally-trained performers now reside in Townsville is testament to the incredible influence and calibre of productions curated by Dancenorth, and we are extremely lucky to have such an institution on our doorstep.
Catch Dancenorth’s Tomorrow Makers at C2, the Civic Theatre, tonight at 7:30pm, and tomorrow at 2pm and 7:30pm. Tickets available via Townsville Tickets.