Magic Dust

Dancenorth will preview 'Dust' in Townsville on 12-13 September, before its global premiere at Brisbane Festival 19-22 September 2018. IMAGE: Amber Haines

It’s a powerful thing to be so deeply moved and not totally comprehend how or why.

Such is the effect of Dancenorth’s latest offering, Dust, which I’ve been privileged to see two previews of recently. The Townsville-based company will share previews of their work with the public next Wednesday and Thursday evenings, before premiering this incredible piece as part of Brisbane Festival later this month.

What struck me hardest on the second viewing was something I’ve always thought is contemporary dance’s greatest strength: the vast space this incredible genre leaves for the viewers’ own interpretation. While it was only two weeks between viewings, I was surprised to find such huge variance in what I thought the work was saying the first time I saw it and the second.

To avoid colouring other people’s takes on Dust, I won’t divulge the details of my interpretations in this review, except to say that the first seemed to explore specific issues currently at play in the national and global political theatre, while the second appeared to deal much more generally with the intricacies and inexplicities of the shared human experience. This work is built upon devastatingly beautiful layers of order and chaos, division and unity, and strength and vulnerability.

The dancers themselves – Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson and Jack Ziesing – move like a different breed of human. Organic. Ethereal. Spiritual. It’s as though their bodies move themselves, without interference from the mind/imagination/sub-conscious (or whatever that ‘thing’ is that has the rest of us mere mortals checking our own physicality so frequently). The company seems to move as one organism split over seven vessels, communicating in some basal language that is both primitive and highly evolved. As we’ve come to expect from Dancenorth there is no stand out. Each dancer is as captivating as the next and while Dust gives them plenty of opportunity to shine as individuals through solo numbers, duets and ensemble sections, this troupe embodies that old cliché: “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

Perhaps that’s due to the very collaborative nature of this work, which extends beyond dancers and choreographers (Kyle Page and Amber Haines), to the architecturally designed set created by Tasmania’s Liminal Studio, live violin performance by Canada’s Jessica Moss (which I have not yet witnessed), and incredible soundscape developed by Sound Artist Alisdair Macindoe.

The set must be seen to believed. It’s the perfect demonstration of Kyle and Amber’s great imagination and skill, as the dancers move and interact with its numerous parts to create new worlds to explore. At times I did feel as though some of the dance became ‘filler content’ as set pieces were moved around in lengthy transitions, however none of the artful prowess was lost in these moments and I’m confident all will be rectified when the lighting comes into play (I was, after all, attending rehearsals).

Alisdair’s work is filled with subtle nuances that filter into the brain. Something about it almost becomes white noise, as it washes over the audience and draws them into Dust. I distinctly recall a cheery dinging reminiscent of poker machines in an otherwise ominous mix and thinking what a fitting undertone for unpacking this lottery of life. No doubt, Jessica’s live violin performance will create an even greater effect.

A word of advice: Don’t miss it.

Townsville is incredibly lucky to have this amazing bunch of artists-slash-athletes to call its own, although I’m sad to say that I don’t think they’re fittingly celebrated. Whether you’re into dance or not, you will love this show if only for the sheer marvel at what these seven people can do.

You know those amazing dance videos we’ve all seen on YouTube? The ones that elicit a chorus of “Whoa!”,Oh my gawd!” and “How do they do that?”? This is your chance to catch one live!

Dancenorth will give Townsville audiences a preview of Dust on 12-13 September 2018, with tickets available here. The Dust premiere will be performed at Brisbane Festival on 19-22 September, with tickets available here.

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