• 'Grande Finale'. Photo: Rahi Rezvani.
    'Grande Finale'. Photo: Rahi Rezvani.

With five works from Australia choreographers and two large-scale international works, the dance program for this year’s Melbourne International Arts Festival, which takes place October 2-20, celebrates both the epic and the local.

The international component includes Hofesh Shechter’s Grande Finale which made its Australian debut at this year’s Adelaide Festival where it was described by Dance Australia’s Maggie Tonkin as “a stunning paean to the end of the world, danced with the utmost abandon and commitment by the company.” 

Rite of Spring. Photo Yijian Li
'Rite of Spring'. Photo Yijian Li

After performing at Brisbane Festival in September, China’s Yang Liping Contemporary Dance Company will also be returning to Melbourne with Rite of Spring (pictured top). Yang Liping’s take on Stravinsky’s score sees Chinese aesthetics melded with contemporary expression.

From Australia, the program includes works from Chunky Move, Branch Nebula, Lucy Guerin Inc, Stephanie Lake Company and Jo Lloyd.

'Token Armies'. Photo: Dian McLeod.
'Token Armies'. Photo: Dian McLeod.

Chunky Move will present Antony Hamilton’s first work as the company’s artistic director, Token Armies. Populated by varied lifeforms, animated machines and a set that appears to pulse and breathe, Token Armies is a symphony of action, image and sound. It features a sculpture by Creature Technology Co. – the creators of works such as King Kong and Walking with Dinosaurs.

'High Performance Packing Tape'. Photo: Tristan Still.
'High Performance Packing Tape'. Photo: Tristan Still.

Branch Nebula’s High Performance Packing Tape (2018) transforms everyday stationery and office consumables into the infrastructure of one person’s physical ruin. Performer Lee Wilson scales collapsing towers, hangs precariously from bridges unable to carry their weight and asks more of cheap materials than they're ever able to give. Pivoting between visceral terror and the ridiculous, this physical theatre work needles at our desire for self preservation and material wellbeing with a series of scenarios that each ratchet up the tension another notch.

It’s pleasing to see MIAF featuring the works of three local female choreographers in this year’s program.

Colossus. Photo: Mark Gambino.
'Colossus'. Photo: Mark Gambino.

With 50 dancers on stage Colossus, by Stephanie Lake Company, is colossal by name and nature. Described by Dance Australia’s Susan Bendall as “fresh and thrilling… dance amplified”, Colossus premiered in 2018 to widespread critical acclaim. Bendall continues, “Colossus plays freely and dynamically with the kinetic and emotional interconnectedness of individuals within and outside of a group, and gestures far beyond the human realm to patterns, impulses and hierarchies in the wider organic world.”

Lilian Steiner and Melanie Lane in 'Split'. Photo: Gregory Lorenzutti.
Lilian Steiner and Melanie Lane in 'Split'. Photo: Gregory Lorenzutti.

Another Melbourne-born work, Lucy Guerin’s Split should need no introduction – it’s played nationally and internationally since its 2017 premiere at Dance Massive in 2017. A duet for two dancers – one clothed, one naked – Split follows the pair as their physical world gradually shrinks. A power struggle of desires and demands, the work has been described by Dance Australia’s Maggie Tonkin as “riveting from beginning to end”.

The third local work by a female choreographer to be given a platform in the 2019 MIAF program is Jo Lloyd’s Overture, which premiered in 2018. Based on Lloyd’s childhood memories of pretending to interview famous people she’d like to meet, Overture extends on this fantasy and is a dance that considers the unrequited, the unattainable and our attempts to connect with particular beings of obsession. The work sees Lloyd’s performers shake, run, halt, throw limbs and memories out through the ends of their fingers, as they invoke lost heroes to play out impossible scenarios.

'Overture'. Photo: Bryony Jackson.
'Overture'. Photo: Bryony Jackson.

For more info about Melbourne Festival head to www.festival.melbourne/2019

Pictured top: 'Grande Finale'. Photo: Rahi Rezvani.

Look out for our interview with Hofesh Shechter in the October/November issue of Dance Australia. Subscribe here!


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