Parade Playhouse Theatre, Sydney
Locreado Dance Company has emerged from Covid with Pause, a fearlessly relevant contemporary piece choreographed and directed by Loredo Malcolm. The company of 13 dancers, founded by Malcolm in Sydney in 2006, reflect on the chaos of modern life in this intoxicating performance divided into two acts, ‘The Journey’ and ‘The Moment’.
Pause opens with an eloquently spoken introduction by Loredo Malcolm. He begins with an invitation to breathe, a powerful notion for a masked and socially distanced audience, and welcomes us into an abstract story world. He describes the meeting of a man and woman, each victims of the pace of modern technology, who find each other by stopping for a moment to pause. Malcolm reiterates the goal of the performance: to nourish it’s audience, and make them think.
The most striking element of Malcolm’s choreography is its sophisticated balance of chaos and stillness. Tight hand gestures and sharp head movements release into deep lunges and effortless lifts. Bodies enter and exit the space in unpredictable ensembles, bouncing, rolling, swinging and suddenly: stillness. These contrasts are anarchic and arresting; the tone is meditative, demanding complete presence from the audience. The movement penetrates downward, the dancers sharing an earthed quality supported by strong classical technique. Moments of physical touch are truly moving, especially in Covid conditions. The dancers push, pull, drag and catch each other with a sense of restrained respect relevant to both the story and the context of its consumption.
Pause reaches its thematic and technical apex in Act 2, in the form of a lyrical pas de deux executed by Raegan Williams and Aaron Matheson. The pair oscillate between longing and indifference, reaching for each other’s attention before parting with poignant aloofness. Gestures of desperation, returned only with disconnection and absence, are moving in their subtlety; Loredo Malcolm is a nuanced storyteller. Williams combines impressive technique with musical intelligence; the result is a sense of spontaneity and possession, as though her movement is somehow improvised and completely instinctive. Her extensions are breathtaking, undulating at their peak and giving accent to the liquid quality of this pas de deux.
NIDA’s Parade Playhouse Theatre is an ideal venue for the piece. While the auditorium is intimate, the vast stage allows the dancers to expand, scraping every inch of tarkett with controlled abandon. The set, designed by The Combination Production Team, is resourcefully minimalistic. Pieces of paper hung from the ceiling on strings hover over the dancers’ heads like looming deadlines. They are torn down and disregarded in Act 1, an unpredictable interaction which feels resolute and liberating. A single black desk positioned upstage right enters the space periodically, the dancers exploring its presence with curiosity and reverence. This understated symbolism is complemented by simple costuming, sourced by the company, in muted tones of grey, black and burgundy. The use of headphones and briefcases is compelling, and the dancers manipulate their props with well rehearsed artistry.
A crucial cornerstone of this performance is the use of lighting, which acts as a physical framework for the dancers. They move between squares of light projected onto the stage in an illuminated grid reminiscent of fluorescent down lights or office block windows. The austerity of this design cleverly sets a tone of isolation without overwhelming the dancers.
A diverse soundscape, edited by Worldwide Sounds, forms the heartbeat of the work. From industrial electronic to lyrical indie pop to operatic fusions, Malcolm’s music choices are as boldly erratic as his choreography.
In Pause, Locreado Dance Company works to ground and enlighten its audience, a courageous choice in a time of distraction and avoidance. Loredo Malcolm’s commitment to presence is exhilarating.
– TAYLOR VENTER