• Third year students in Daniel Riley's 'Twelve Ascensions'. Photo: Fiona Cullen.
    Third year students in Daniel Riley's 'Twelve Ascensions'. Photo: Fiona Cullen.

Gardens Theatre, QUT, October 30

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Dance graduation season provides a small window of observation into its three-year degree course. The program usually comprises new works, choreographed on the dancers themselves (often in collaboraton with the dancers), showing not only their technique, but also their ability to work within different choreographic methods, while also potentially extending their own creative abilities. The program’s success depends largely on the mix of choreographers, which usually varies widely in style and experience. Thus some years are more successful in showcasing both the works and the dancers than others.

Scott Ewen’s Cardinal opened the program with a very dystopian view of the future of our planet. Inspired by the documentary, Mission Blue, the work reflects on the calamitous state of our oceans. A large cylindrical fishing net, littered with detritus, hangs centre stage, and neatly sets the theme. In white shorts, and pink and blue stripy tops, the second years – only five left of last year’s cohort of 12 –  all showed great commitment to the work. The second movement, which has the dancers packed tightly in a line, is most effective; the more gestural movement creating engaging patterns, as the soundscape (Kangding Ray and Yanto Browning) develops with a relentless throbbing beat.  

Second year students performing 'Cardinal' by Scott Ewen.
Second year students performing 'Cardinal' by Scott Ewen.

Tres Dioses, choreographed by Yasim Coronado Veranes for the first year dancers, draws inspiration from the Afro-Cuban religion, Yorùbá, with its three movements roughly delineating the three gods of the religion – Oya, Babablu Aye, and Obatala. Choreography to the distinctly South American sound of the Cuban rock group, Sintesis, is stylistically confused, however, with its split leaps, hitch kicks and strutting seemingly at odds with the subject matter and the score. The dancers, in white thin-strapped leotards, change into an assortment of different skirts as the work progresses; the long white split leg culottes the most effective in showing the line and shape of the movement. The dancers performed with great enthusiasm and nailed the technical demands of the movement, but I felt the work failed to challenge their capabilities as much as it could have.

Twelve Ascensions, by Daniel Riley for the third year dancers, begins optimistically with orchestral overtones of the chirpy Wizard of Oz theme. The seven dancers, in black fisherman’s styled pants and tops, sway and swing in lines that move on and off stage. Riley’s exploration of themes of freedom is clearly shown in these opening moments, and in the subsequent bondage motifs, where long leads restrain the dancers. The work gives a token nod to Riley’s Indigenous heritage in the final moments, where white ochre is liberally spread over bodies and the space. The score, a compilation of several composers including Max Richter, was compelling, but while the creative phase would have been stimulating for the dancers, the execution was uneven.

A Line of Time was the strongest work of the four. Choreographed by Adam Blanch, also for the third year dancers, it explores the concept of entropy, or social chaos, and the possibility of its reversal. Globes of yellow light descend from above into the haze-filled, blue-lit space. In this work the seven dancers, in long blue tops and green track-type pants, performed movement that was fluid, clearly articulated, and very much in synch with the music (Toby Merz), which made compelling viewing. There are tender moments in the work, in which a dancer’s head is cradled by another’s hands, before the pace picks up as the dancers separate across the space. Here, there was a little less attention to the detail of the movement. Nevertheless this work successfully challenged the dancers and showed them as technically adroit.

Glen Hughes lit all works most effectively, and costume design was by Shaaron Boughen, and Rosa Hirakata (Twelve Ascensions). There were some lovely moments throughout "Dance 18", but the works did not always show the dancers to their best advantage.


Pictured top: Third year students in Daniel Riley's "Twelve Ascensions". Photo: Fiona Cullen.


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