If you want to see cutting-edge dance from emerging choreographers propelled into the limelight this is for you. It is the second program in the Propel project conceived by Natalie Weir, artistic director of Expressions Dance Company. Weir has achieved stellar international success as a choreographer. She is now not only creating new works but also mentoring promising young talent to do likewise. The program consists of two 30-minute pieces, Synapse and Apples and Eve. It is presented in the studio fittingly named after the recently deceased great actor Bille Brown who did so much to nurture local artistic excellence.
Liesel Zink’s choreography of “Synapse” is stunning. It reveals to us something elemental about the human condition. It takes us into the electric junction between the one and the many, the individual and the group – the place of learning and change.
The piece starts sans music on a minimalist stage. The seven dancers show us the initial anxieties of seven persons each trying to find their place, wanting the security of the group. This evolves into the dark, exhilarating power of the herd stampeding across stage, retrieving the occasional maverick. The action grows more complex as relationships emerge. In one fine moment Samantha Mitchell is held upside down by Jack Ziesing standing on a chair. The pose is striking – unusual but not awkward, perhaps even intimate.
Zink uses an abstract soundscape designed by Mike Willmett integrated at one point with the sparseness of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
The bare stage is covered by two broad white paths. With exuberance the dancers pull up sections of the path, scatter them and claim various bits as their own territory. One can see medieval Europe carving up the known world, street gangs at work or companies jostling over market share – the atavistic at play. Putting the pieces back in order is not so easy.
The Expressions dancers are superb. Riannon McLean gives a sublime performance but each dancer serves to make the whole more than the sum of its parts.
This non-verbal study of body language should be compulsory viewing for advanced students of psychology and social work. It expresses the dynamics of group behaviour more lucidly more than a gaggle of doctoral theses.
This is a profound, original contribution to the world of dance. Liesel Zink’s work is spare, intellectually honest and compelling. To have achieved such truth and beauty by the age of 25 is astonishing, redolent of Keats.
Apples and Eve
Lucas Jervies’ piece of dance theatre pokes fun at the biblical story of Adam and Eve. In the program notes Jervies tells us that the story “can be interpreted as dark, misogynistic and quite menacing to those who live outside of this way of thinking”. Jervies proceeds to poke fun at God and men alike.
Benjamin Chapman does a worthy job as a tutu-wearing God but it must be tough to be forever laughed at and defeated by Mother Nature/ Satan/ apple temptress danced convincingly by Elise May. In a cascading, apple-resplendent dress Mother Nature reaches provocatively to produce from its nether folds an endless supply of apples. Paganism one, monotheism nil.
After the original sin the former delights of apple-eating turn pear-shaped. God is displeased. No more Eden. Adam (Jack Ziesing) and Eve (Samantha Mitchell) become self-conscious about their sexuality. Soon all is mayhem. To the soundtrack “Love is a Battlefield” all the dancers fling themselves into combat one with another. This is a dazzling display of the athleticism and skill of this company’s dancers.
The show is a crowd pleaser with many a giggle and guffaw. Your reviewer was however left with a sense of incompleteness. This seems like a work in progress rather than an artistic whole, a sweet apple snack rather than a feast. Perhaps that is part of the process for budding artists. As Satan would say, suck it and see; or as Bille Brown was wont to say, “I try to put myself in the way of things”.
Choreography: Liesel Zink and Lucas Jervies
Dancers: Michelle Barnett, Benjamin Chapman, Elise May, Samantha Mitchell, Riannon McLean, Robert McMillan and Jack Ziesing
Music: Mike Willmett and Ludwig van Beethoven
Performances: 28 February 2013 at 7.30pm, 1 March 11.30 am and 7.30 pm, 2 March 7.30 pm.
Duration: 1 hour and 20 minutes (including a 20 minute interval).