Since the beginning of July, Townsville has been treated to a veritable smorgasbord of Arts and Culture thanks to the wonderful programming of the inaugural North Australian Festival of the Arts (NAFA). NAFA has dished up treat after treat of music, dance, theatre, comedy, visual arts and more; bringing local performers together with some of the country’s heavy hitters.
Rounding out the final courses of this artistic feast was NOISE, the latest offering from Townsville’s own Dancenorth,; and it was everything a community-focused performance piece should be.
Easily accessible? Check.
A cross-pollination of artists and artforms? Check.
Visually stunning and aurally stirring? Check.
Magical? Playful Inclusive? Check. Check. Check.
The performance, created by Kyle Page and Amber Haines, was set to a thumping live soundtrack beat out by 100 community drummers, lead by King Social’s Costa Hagiaglou.
In true Dancenorth style the choreography was brain-bendingly organic: simultaneously prompting disbelief that the human body can do that, while serving to remind us of just how wonderfully versatile organisms we are, given the right conditions. Dancenorth’s dancers – Samantha Hines, Mason Kelly, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson, Jack Ziesing and Callum Mooney – each brought a captivating sense of improvisation and spontaneity to the work, which was so intrinsically linked to the chorus of drums behind them that it was easy to suspect they may have been making it up in the moment. However, on the second viewing of this performance it became clear how remarkably fine-tuned and well-disciplined this joyful choreography was.
While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Dancenorth’s more sombre works in the past, this upbeat change of pace was a welcome shift. I felt myself grinning along with the dancers, who departed from their usual stony-faced concentration into beaming smiles that suggested just how much fun they were having themselves.
NOISE is a celebration of rhythm and the deeply engrained connection to rhythm that is shared by humans the world-over. It was great fun trying to pick out the different dance styles that influenced the choreography: gentle nods to ballet, salsa and swing were infused with more tribal movement in ways that were both fluid and percussive.
Of course, the drummers themselves were a highlight, and Kyle and Amber’s idea to include them in this piece was a masterstroke. Townsville is extremely fortunate to have such a diverse and highly engaged percussion community and this ensemble was the perfect representation of that, bringing together snares, traditional drums such as djembes and taiko, a full kit, and even improvised shakers. The drummers themselves were a vast mix of people who – I could tell from their chorus of whoops and a chat with Costa after the final show – thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be part of something of this spectacular scale.
It is a testament to this incredible piece that a packed Strand Park fell eerily quiet at 7pm on Saturday night. Every person present was drawn into this performance and held there from beginning to end.
Ultimately, NOISE is exactly what Arts Festivals like NAFA should be about – uniting people through a love of expression, movement and sound in a way that will encourage them to seek out further opportunities for enjoying the sensational Arts practices that Townsville is so very like to home.
Dancenorth will present their new work, Communal Table, in Townsville on 10-13 September 2019. For information and tickets, click here.