LINK Dance Company: “Shanghai Bolero” –
Fremantle Arts Centre, 21 October –
The leafy, moonlit courtyard of the Fremantle Arts Centre made an atmospheric, if slightly chilly, venue for LINK Dance Company’s final performance season for 2015, “Shanghai Bolero”. LINK Dance Company (LDC) is the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts pre-professional program for graduate dancers.
Although presented as a double bill, the program’s first work, 59009 Tonight, by LDC’s artistic director Michael Whaites, felt more like a curtain-raiser – short and sweet. Set to four popular songs recorded by Michael Buble, 59009 Tonight has more than a touch of Rogers and Astaire about it, interwoven with contemporary technique. The second piece was my favourite, a pas de deux to Buble’s rendition of the Elvis Presley hit “Can’t Help Falling in Love” performed with panache by Natalie Kolobaric and Alexander Perrozzi. Particularly impressive was a moment in which Kolobaric sat astride Perozzi’s shoulder before spiralling downwards. “Save the Last Dance for Me” was also delightful – joining Perrozzi, Lisa Barry and Robert Tinning made an effervescent trio.
And so to the title work, Shanghai Bolero, created by French choreographer Didier Théron for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. WA audiences have been exposed to Théron’s inexorable movement aesthetic previously – Harakiri (2008) was performed in Perth in 2009 and 2012. In Shanghai Bolero, Théron takes Ravel’s 1928 Bolero, a piece designed around repetition and accumulation, and pushes those concepts even further. The same recording is played three times as first ten female dancers perform, then three male dancers, and finally the full company of thirteen. LDC has only five female dancers and so the ranks were swelled with five professional dancers, including stage veterans Sue Peacock and Claudia Alessi.
As with Harakiri, the movement vocabulary in Shanghai Bolero is relatively simple. Clad in killer black heels, black short-shorts and black high-necked tops (think Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love”), the ten women in the first section stride, catwalk style, around the stage in ever-changing geometric formations. Variations appear, ranging from sensually placed hands to sudden drops into crab-like movement along the floor. Tops are pulled up teasingly or dramatically pulled over heads for a full torso reveal. In spite of these variations, repetition remains the name of the game.
For the men who follow, the movement is more aerobic - a bobbing, bouncing motion, weight shifting quickly and continuously from side to side. Gestures of supplication and crucifixion are interspersed with gestures of sensuality as one dancer slides his hands provocatively over another, blurring the line between religious and sexual ecstasy. There's an extreme physicality in the unending bouncing and the three dancers, Dean Lincoln, Tinning and Perrozzi, seemed to move into a trance-like state.
While the second section never stops moving, the third focuses on stillness. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this section is any easier to perform than the others, however. At one point eight dancers are paired, one swooped across the other’s lunging body. They remain in place for minutes, in a lift that would normally be held for seconds at most. Other sections see the dancers stop, knees bent, and then slowly, almost imperceptibly and presumably painfully, deepen the bend.
The lighting here is reminiscent of moonlight, gently bathing the limbs of both the dancers and the surrounding trees. Four of the female dancers and all of the male dancers are topless in this section, revealing the graceful line of their spines, flanked by wing-like shoulder blades as they turn to face the back.
Seeing the young company members alongside professional dancers was both moving and impressive. Théron’s work is unrelenting and unforgiving – the mental stamina required to remember the complex permutations, and to keep one’s place in music that has few obvious cues, is substantial. The dancers, students and professionals, met these demands with finesse. Moving as one, they didn’t miss a beat.
- Nina Levy
Photos: Jon Green. Click on thumbnails for captions.