(Expressions Dance Company)


Choreographed by Maggie Sietsma and Sue Peacock

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

Professional production

Flight is a perfect title for the latest program offered by Expressions Dance Company. As ever with this bold company, the dancers take off explosively, float weightlessly, swoop dangerously, and in every way defy the normal laws of gravity. Just to watch them is to indulge in a form of masochism, knowing that one will be left with a feeling of guilt and dissatisfaction at the limits of one’s own feeble and essentially earth-bound body.

In both pieces in this program (Flight by Maggie Sietsma and “If only he could see what she was looking at…” by Sue Peacock ) the concept of flight is used metaphorically too, as characters flee from their past, themselves, and each other, or soar into freedom as they resist the pull of the past. In both pieces too the audience is invited to let its imagination fly, following the dancers in explorations of identity and relationship against a constantly-changing and sometimes fanciful background of words, balloons and birdcages.

Maggie Sietsma’s piece showcases the dramatic power and athleticism of Zaimon Vilmanis who, as Dave, the central character of Flight, explodes in a storm of anger and frustration as he battles everything that shackles him to his past and prevents his self-realisation. The other dancers all demonstrate their versatility as they represent different aspects of his life in a constantly-changing kaleidoscope of characters and alter-egos. Sally Wicks easily meets the challenge of a series of difficult and stamina-draining duets, and Dan Crestani gives a wonderfully manic performance as a demented bird.

For anyone used to classical ballet with its respectfully silent audiences, it might come as surprise to hear the delighted laughter and appreciative gurgles that greet the inventive scenery or genuinely funny moments in contemporary dance pieces. The shock of hearing dancers speak is a further stimulus to an audience to engage more fully with the action on stage, and Maggie Sietsma uses all the elements at a choreographer’s disposal, including comedy, visual jokes, intriguing music and the human voice, to create an imaginative world in which to explore meaning.

This is the premiere of “If only he could see what she was looking at …” by West Australian choreographer Sue Peacock, and it is ideally suited to the ensemble work at which this company excels. Against a backcloth of projected and constantly dissolving phrases, snatches of conversation, and incomplete statements, the dancers come together and drift apart in an endless stream of connections and disconnections, expressions of intimacy and exclusion. Performers take turns in narrating the fragments of a shifting relationship where nothing is certain, clothes are exchanged, gender roles reversed, and continuity is elusive The movement is at times frenetic and compulsively repeated, the dancers working miraculously in unison to a beat of music, percussion, or sometimes only their own breath. There are similarities with the work of some modern Japanese dance groups in the almost obsessive exploration of closeness and distance, union and resistance.

It would have been good to be able to write at greater length about the contribution of the soundscape to this piece and to Maggie Sietsma’s Flight, as both use music particularly effectively to support and enhance the dancers’ work. The music chosen is listed in the program, so enthusiasts can follow it up for themselves later. However, appropriately, while watching these pieces the music does not demand attention, it is there to create and sustain a mood and it is only afterwards that analysis of just how cleverly the mix was made is possible.

“If only he could see what she was looking at..,” is a very powerful and demanding piece and Brisbane is fortunate to see its first outing. It is also the first opportunity Brisbane audiences have had to see the work of Megan Fucher, the latest addition to the Expressions ensemble. The beautiful line and lyricism that she brings complements the strength, authority and energy of the other female dancers and provides another foil for the athletic men.

Brisbanites are extraordinarily lucky to have a company of this excellence and international standing with such an exciting venue as the Judith Wright Centre as its home. During the 2006 World Shakespeare Congress the company will be staging Maggie Sietsma’s Virtually Richard 3 featuring Dan Crestani for three performances only (19th, 20th July) – another example of this company’s determination to make connections between different branches of the arts in Queensland.

Playing until 17 July: Sat 8, Fri 14, Sat 15 July 8pm, Wed 12 July 6:30 pm, Fri 14, Mon 17 July 11:30 am.

Running time: 1hour 30 minutes including 20 minute interval

— Maureen Strugnell
(Performance seen: Fri 7th July 2006)