Tasdance: “Affinity" -
Princess Theatre, Launceston, 17 October -
For her last production as artistic director of Tasdance for more than eighteen years, Annie Greig commissioned a double bill highlighting eminent Tasmanian-born artists: the late composer Peter Sculthorpe, and choreographers Graeme Murphy and Stephanie Lake, just two of the fifty or more choreographers of some 74 works under Greig's vision and direction.
Keeping faith with the company, its loyal supporters and the state, Greig knew that “Affinity“ had to make a potent statement. That it did so did not rely on choreography alone but also the commitment to find the best music for the show. A two-year collaboration with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra delivered two marvelously crafted scores which the orchestra played live, brilliantly conducted by Hamish McKeich at Hobart's Theatre Royal (October 9-10) and Launceston's Princess Theatre (17).
Stephanie Lake's note for The Howl states that the music, a collage of Matthew Hindson, Philip Glass, Johnny Greenwood and Arvo Part, "provide[s] the framework and the world mushroomed out of the chemical reaction between myself and the dancers. It has become about the rupture between states of chaos and organisation". Through finely articulated gestures, rigors and spasticity, this "rupture" manifests itself with alternating rage and warmth. Lake writes, "On one hand the dancers rally, galvanise and move in the same direction. On the other they thrash, shatter and collapse." These contrasts are most disarming in Lake's complex partnering, which oscillates between volatile aerial work and collective solicitude.
The Howl can leave one feeling rattled so often that its conclusion is hardly optimistic. However, driven by the music, the ensemble generated an intense level of connectedness before our eyes through multitudinous combinations of bodies and hearts. Cinematic at times, abstract at others, but sustained by a subtle underlying structure, the music commands and reignites our attention in sympathy with the dance. No wonder The Howl was a hit with the cheering crowd.
So too was Graeme Murphy's more optimistic The Time Together to elegantly collaged Sculthorpe works. Dancers enter in white protective coveralls, carrying industrial lanterns, going to work. Some flatten themselves on the stage while others shine torches over others, who scrabble across the stage like insects, spied on, until one observer begins to undo his overalls revealing flashes of white gold on his body. As the cast members divest themselves of all protection, they bring to mind images of chrysalids climbing out of their cocoons into the glaring light. Like The Howl, The Time Together can confront, but it morphs from lush athleticism into the warm, organic clusters and soft flowing formations which lay at the heart of the last productions Murphy and his trusty associate Janet Vernon created for Sydney Dance Company.
Murphy offers no direct clues to his concept but the environment and its creatures, like the young dancers' making their careers, are potentially apt. The house rightly exploded for the dancers Alana Everett, Bec Jones, Brianna Kell, Alya Manzart, Harrison Ritchie-Jones, Luigi Vescio and Tristan Carter. More noise followed for the choreographers and for designers Damien Cooper, Alexi Freeman and Jennifer Irwin. The loudest and longest cheers were for Annie Greig, deeply moved when rehearsal director Carol Wellman Kelly presented her with flowers, and Murphy pushed her, repeatedly to the front, and rightly so.
- Lee Christofis
Photos: Jen Brown. Click on thumbnails for captions. Top photo: Graeme Murphy's The Time Together.