Gardens Theatre, QUT, 31 October
The QUT graduation season celebrates the commitment and talent of those students about to step into the real world of the performing arts, as well as marking a point in the journey of those still studying. As is usually the case, the program was predominantly of contemporary dance, from various choreographers, but of differing movement styles. However, the lighting colour palette throughout (design by Glenn Hughes) seemed quite similar – sombre tones with extensive use of fog and haze – and the mood or theme of each piece was also similarly reflective.
A thematic exception was provided by Keith Hawley’s sassy nod to Bob Fosse for the first year students, which opened the program – and as Hawley pronounced, was entertainment for its own sake. The all female cast in black bras, briefs and thigh high, high-heeled boots performed Yello for Mumma (to a score by Yello) with enthusiasm and a fair amount of attitude. Not all had the needle sharp precision needed to make Hawley’s highly stylised choreography sizzle, but there was some impressive ensemble work in the second section of the piece. Dedicated to the memory of Sue Leclercq, (the former QUT dance lecturer, who suddenly passed away this year), the work caused chuckles with the brief appearance of the image of a pair of crocs – Leclercq’s favourite footwear.
The first half closed with Jack Lister’s While I was Dying. Drawn from Hans Christian Anderson’s tragic tale, The Little Match Girl, it tracks a young girl’s journey towards death from hypothermia in a bitter winter. The opening moments are quite captivating – "snow" falling through a grey haze filled space, haunting vocals in a score by Will Hughes, and sweeping movement by the third year students in long overcoats. Dancers fading in and out of the space convey the Match Girl’s hallucinations, while a couple of duets with cleverly conceived and fluidly executed contact work, explore memories of her grandmother, and her final dance with death. Lister’s choreography is innately musical which made this piece, although a little long, the more enjoyable.
The second half of the program consisted of two works. The first, Between the Wish and the Well, by Riannon McLean, explores issues of lost time and a yearning for more in three movements. The second year students accomplished the soft, suspended movement, which had extensive use of the upper body, with ease. Costumes of full voile skirts, peasant blouses and vests, together with a score drawn from Icelandic, Argentinian and American composers, give the work a bleak, folk ambience. The second movement, with overhead lighting patterning the floor, has a more energetic multi-directional movement construct, including running, from the dancers. It was another very musical offering, but again a few minutes too long.
The final work, Minmin, by Katina Olsen, probably challenged the third year dancers most, as it required a more internalised and minimalist Indigenous movement style. Beginning with a long piece of spoken text, the dancers lie motionless on the stage. In loose pants and flesh coloured crop tops, they look like shells on a sandy beach, until slowly they begin to move. This exploration of the spirits of the Min Min light was quite delightful – the dancers accomplished the earth bound movements that press softly into the floor with ease, but also the rhythmic springing from the floor, that makes this style of movement so delicious to watch.
QUT graduation seasons generally have a democratic construct in that no soloists in the group pieces are named, and often little else is offered to highlight particular talent. Granted, this does occur more in the "Dance Bytes" season, earlier in the year, but for a reviewer, identification is pivotal. A duet by Csaba Buday, Shadow Ninja, did provide that opportunity here in the first half. Jayden Grogan (third year) and Brock Fielder (second year) were both impressive in this short piece that referenced the style and emotion of the Ninja warrior. Grogan in particular captured the attention with his broad, dynamically powerful and beautifully extended movement.
– DENISE RICHARDSON
Pictured top: Jayden Grogan and Brock Fiedler were impressive in Csaba Buday’s Shadow Ninja. Photo: Fiona Cullen