South Bank Parkland
With great daring and innovative programming by its artistic director, Louise Bezzina, the Brisbane Festival revitalised the arts in and around the city, delivering a package of works that, in spite of the rigorous new guidelines, restored much of the city’s pre-Covid ambience.
Thankfully dance featured strongly in the mix, with a variety of works on offer (including Karul Projects’ Silence, reviewed earlier). Australasian Dance Collective’s (ADC) Arc was one most keenly awaited, because of its scale, and because it was the first performance by the company in over 10 months.
Performed at dusk on the lawn at River Quay Green, South Bank, and set against the backdrop of the Brisbane river and a towering cityscape, Arc featured 38 dancers from both the company and its youth ensemble.
Created especially for the Festival by ADC artistic director, Amy Hollingsworth, as a celebration of the human spirit, the program notes indicated the work reflected on our recent collective journey from “isolation to reconnection,” and the joy of community and shared experience.
Arc is a short work at around 30 minutes, neatly crafted and building in intensity to its climactic finish. The 30-strong youth ensemble acted as a chorus to the ADC dancers who intermittently broke away from the group. All dancers were in long black pants, shoes and t-shirts, which were in sharp relief to the green of the lawn, and, particularly as the performance was relying only on natural light, the colour palette worked well.
The opening moments were quite stirring as the dancers entered the space, striding in single file down the diagonal of the vast expanse of lawn and forming two large circles. A simple phrase of pulsating movement, using mainly the arms and upper body, was then repeated in unison while building in intensity.
The manoeuvring of 38 dancers as one, across the space, was almost hypnotic. The movement continued to be mostly of the upper body, and arms that cut powerfully into the air creating different sculptural shapes and patterns – bare skin in sharp relief against the costumes’ blackness. Bodies rose and fell, as the group splintered and then reunited.
An evocative duet between ADC dancers, Marlo Benjamin and Jake McLarnon, was quite poignant – their caressing but contactless embraces, showing the tension of maintaining distance.
Another section had Bernard Knauer conducting the now tightly-knit group like a game of ‘Simon Says’, the dancers copying his moves, their bare arms creating another myriad of patterns. Was this perhaps a comment on conformity for the common good?
Arc reached its climax as the dancers, spread across the space and facing front, moved together in an expanding range of abandoned movement of leaps and high kicks, before all collapsing to the ground.
Composer Will Hughes’ soundscape for Arc, with its pulsating, percussive rhythm, was galvanising. It did not merely support the movement with its precise beat but was a vital component. Being outdoors, the sound levels were apparently being monitored, which was a pity. A full-blast rendition would have been terrific.
– DENISE RICHARDSON