Expressions Dance Company: Converge
Conservatorium Theatre, South Bank
Expressions Dance Company’s quadruple bill of short commissioned works, “Converge”, produces a deeply satisfying nexus between artistic achievement and showcasing alternative choreographic voices.
That is not always the case with such platforms for emerging and/or independent choreographers, but it’s also not their primary aim. So an outcome of engaging quality dance enriched by live and original (in part) music is a special experience.
A common thread of humanity links the diverse quartet of works. Starting as an immediate physical expression of its music, Stephanie Lake’s rhythmic Ceremony is a marvel of quirky intricacy and precision. As much as its aesthetic result, one can appreciate the technical challenge for the six performers to remain in sync, especially when sounding finely-detailed percussive accompaniment with body parts, breath and voice – whether it be to the eclectic score culminating in Steve Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood, or filling silence. Considering that injuries caused several cast changes, the dancers performed with preternatural calm focus.
Ceremony is, however, more than an exercise, capturing comic and playful interaction through gesture, exploration of action and reaction and the tension between contrasting physical qualities. Its cool cleverness leaves one smiling.
EDC members Richard Causer and Jake McLarnon’s contributions are set to commissioned scores composed by students from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, which has also provided the 16 accomplished musicians who play onstage throughout.
In Causer’s Imposters, the individual compositions – by Isabella Gerometta, Padraig Parkhurst and Michal Rosiak – seamlessly blend. Bold symbolism is its centrepiece as layers of social identity are stripped bare. The influence of Surrealism is evident in the ensemble looking like orange flowers via inverted skirts pulled up over their heads, the image suggesting both protection and vulnerability. Another tableau confronts the bitter truth beneath the lemon’s inviting glossy perfection.
Some viewers, however, will connect less immediately with the heightened style of Imposters than the other works in “Converge”.
The paintings of Byron Bay artist Jasper Hills are the direct inspiration for McLarnon’s duet, Isochronism. The nebula-like, fluid and dreamy quality of the paintings manifests in the pictures the choreography creates. Dancers McLarnon and EDC debutant Scott Ewen ebbed and flowed in a display of complementary dynamics, strength and power that is mirrored in Tanya Jones and Jarvis Miller’s music.
For this program Ewen had stepped in for an injured Isabella Hood. His height disparity with McLarnon is similar to Hood's, and while this serves the choreography well, one can imagine that some sections may have been more effective and striking through the original male/female counterpoint.
Ending the program is Chinese choreographer Xu Yiming’s contemplation of the endless cycle of challenge, discovery and endurance that constitutes life. Called Aftermath, this quartet is an absorbing piece of dance theatre that captures, both humorously and sombrely, the extremes and contradictions, confusion and uncertainty we experience as we flounder to survive, move forward and find a place we belong.
A spiritual score by Gurdjieff/De Hartmann and Arvo Pärt helps forge Aftermath’s meditative mood and sophisticated maturity. Xu, who is participating in EDC’s Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project, has a deft facility for creating imagery that distils the essence of human frailty with insight, idiosyncratic self-deprecation and, ultimately, upbeat stoicism (the concluding passage bringing to mind Disney’s Seven Dwarfs’ cheerful ditty).
On occasion, adversity can bring out the best in people, and EDC has triumphed over the challenge of a short creative period compounded by new members and last-minute changes.
The artists exemplify what an ensemble aspires to. They deserve acknowledgement: Elise May, Alana Sargent, Causer, McLarnon, Ewen, guest artist Jag Popham and 2017 trainee, Tiana Pinnell, who ably stepped into Hood’s shoes on short notice.
- OLIVIA STEWART