Projection Dance Company
Concourse Theatre, Chatswood, Sydney
February 29

  Projection Dance Company’s Closer is a fraught, psychologically intense work choreographed by the company director Tim Podesta. Although described on Projection Dance Company’s website as a work for five dancers, it was on this occasion performed by six – two men, and four women – all of them extremely capable dancers. According to the program, “Closer explores the theory of ‘catastrophic thinking’, juxtaposing the pursuit for human perfection against the increasingly evident frailty of our existence.” In psychological terms, catastrophic thinking can be broadly summarised as repetitive, irrational ruminations on worst-outcome scenarios and I must admit to feeling some doubt about whether such a concept could be adequately or meaningfully expressed in dance prior to viewing it. After watching Closer I am still unsure. It is an interesting, but only partially successful work. What really makes this program worth watching are the dancers themselves.

 Kristy-Lee Denovan and newcomer (and recent Australian Ballet School graduate) Mathilda Ballantyne were both featured as soloists and both gave charismatic and commanding performances in their own way. Denovan appears cool, calm and collected on the surface – completely in control of her movement and technique, but there is a dramatic intensity that smoulders just below the surface, revealing itself in suddenly quick but meltingly soft changes of phrasing and speed. Paradoxically, despite her slender build she is also an extremely powerful mover. Ballantyne has a softer, more romantic and lyrical quality, but here too she dug deep and took risks that made her performance excitingly unpredictable to watch. Despite slipping slightly once or twice, Ballantyne recovered her equilibrium quickly and carried on without the slightest flicker of uncertainty. Partnered by male dancers Travis Clausen-Knight and James Pett – both men a good deal taller than the women; Tim Podesta’s choreography explored a range of partnering possibilities that felt overwhelmingly contemporary but still showed traces of classical ballet in their underlying lines and shapes.

 Though performing less featured roles, dancers Zoe Cavedon and Masha Peker made substantial contributions to the work as a whole. Some of the most interesting and memorable choreographic phrases were Podesta’s trios for three women, danced in the first half by Denovan, Ballantyne and Masha Peker; and in the second half by Kristy-Lee Denovan, Masha Peker and Zoe Cavedon.

At approximately one hour Closer is not a long work and I was in two minds about the decision to divide it with a 20-minute interval. It may be that with a small cast of six dancers the interval was a necessary respite for the dancers to catch their breath, but from an audience perspective it meant we lost continuity and had a slightly longer evening and later finish.

 Closer is set to orchestral music called Concurrence, a relatively recent composition which is attributed to four Icelandic composers (Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Haukur Tomasson, Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir and Pall Ragnar Palsson) and was recently released on CD in a recording by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. It felt cinematic in its scope and was excellent at intimating moods on an otherwise bare stage, but also vaguely nebulous and open to interpretation. The costumes (designed by Naneko) were simple but aesthetically slightly odd. Dancers of both genders wore voluminous culottes that gave the appearance or a full skirt (but with small cut-outs on each side of the hip so you could catch a glimpse of their hips and flesh coloured undergarments). The male dancers had bare torsos, but the women wore flesh coloured bandeau tops with thin straps and bare midriffs.

In the final moments of Closer the dancers coalesce into a group in the centre of the stage as the lights dim. It is a satisfying moment, but feels like a long wait to get there.


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