Dancenorth: "Thread" -
School of Arts Theatre, Townsville, 21 May -
Dancenorth’s first season of 2015, “Thread”, celebrates the company’s 30th anniversary and also marks the debut of incoming artistic director Kyle Page. “Thread” is, therefore, aptly devised to honour the past, the present and also look to the future. The program of three short works by three different choreographers also echoes Dancenorth’s aim to provide diversity in its offerings to its audiences, as well as opportunities for an expanded range of artists to create for the company.
The opening work, Torrent, is by independent choreographer Lisa Wilson, who began her career as a dancer at Dancenorth. A well-structured piece that develops from solos to duets and ensemble work, it clearly explores connections, both kinetic and elemental, between body, object, light and sound.
The objects here are a collection of short grey boards that, suspended upstage right by strings, hover a short distance off the floor and provide a focal point for the work. They are, at times, twisted and spun together, while the manipulation of a single board on the floor is cleverly reflected in the movement of one of the four dancers.
Dancers Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large and Ashley McLellan were sinuous, their movement seamless and grounded. Peppered with elements of robotic-like “popping”, the dance becomes progressively looser, more abandoned and finally almost frenzied when punctuated by a staccato ”stuttering” of hands and feet. A visually striking sequence, in which the intricate interplay of four pairs of hands develops into a broad weaving movement for the interlinked dancers, was a highlight.
A commissioned “techno” soundscape by Guy Webster and Ben Ely is a perfect counterpart, and - although perhaps a little long, with repetition creeping in during its last moments - the work offered a solid start to the program.
Jane Pirani’s The Hollow Men draws inspiration from T. S. Eliot’s 1925 poem of the same name, reflecting on a traumatised post-war society. It is an evocative and moving work from the former Dancenorth artistic director. In five short parts, each corresponds to different selections from the poem.
Pirani uses fall and recovery to great effect, particularly in the first movement where the dancers, in ragged garb, stand and collapse collectively, only to rise again, vertically supporting one another.
Again the dancers showed an intelligent maturity in their delivery and great physical dexterity. Although very much an ensemble work, McLellan stood out for her exceptional control in a short solo section of grounded, elastic but finely detailed movement.
The evocative music of Arvo Part and Henry Gorecki adds further texture to this quite literal exploration of the poem. However, an otherwise most appealing song, composed and sung by Isabelle Reynaud (Pirani’s daughter), which accompanies the final movement, seems more at odds with both the movement and what has gone before.
In Syncing Feeling, a duet with co-choreographer and Dancenorth artistic assistant, Amber Haines, Page explores Theory of Mind, metacognition and mirror neurons in a work, which, despite its cerebral genesis, engages visually and emotively.
The striking opening moments see one dancer (Haines) seemingly airborne as she sits on the downstage corner of a large rectangular black cloth, which when manipulated by the other dancer (Page), billows in waves back up the space.
Clad in white pants and top, both dancers stand out from these black surrounds. The initial interaction of their hands and arms sparks lifts (seamlessly executed by Haines and Page) and athletic throws. The partnering appeared effortless.
Haines was mesmerising in a solo section of spinning and rushing through the space, while both dancers were perfectly in time in a furiously fast and repetitive nodding and foot tapping sequence.
In another section, lights projected from behind the backcloth create their own choreography of movement and patterns.
A soundscape by Alisdair Macindoe, also especially commissioned, both supports and enriches the work.
This season marks a new direction for Dancenorth - with a revitalised structure, five newly recruited dancers all with rich and diverse careers, and Page himself, returning after eleven years to where he began his professional career. The excitement was palpable opening night. One can only wish them well.
"Thread" plays until 31 May