• Daniel Riley's 'The Third'. Photo: Sam Roberts Photography.
    Daniel Riley's 'The Third'. Photo: Sam Roberts Photography.
  • A scene from 'Immerse'. Photo: Sam Roberts Photography.
    A scene from 'Immerse'. Photo: Sam Roberts Photography.

Odeon Theatre, Norwood, Adelaide
Reviewed May 10

 Australian Dance Theatre’s Outside Within is a season of firsts, being not only Wiradjuri man Daniel Riley’s first season as artistic director, but also the first time an entire ADT program has been choreographed by First Nations choreographers. The triple bill comprises Immerse, by Barkinji choreographer Adrienne Semmens, which premiered last May as part of ADT’s Convergence season for emerging choreographers (reviewed here), Riley’s short film Mulumna-Inside Within, commissioned for Melbourne’s Rising Festival in 2021, and The Third, Riley’s first dance work created on the company.

Semmens’s Immerse, originally made for eight dancers, has been reconfigured for this season for the company’s current ensemble of six. Inspired by water, with specific reference to First Nations people’s relationships to fresh and salt water, the work retains its former structure, although the density of its original patterning is reduced with a smaller cast. 

It begins with yarn being unspooled across the floor by two dancers, representing the watercourses and songlines that traverse the country. Movement patterns evoke water currents as the dancers, dressed in aquatic tones of blue and grey, ebb and flow in groups, sometime languorously and at others more propulsively. Semmens’s use of gesture is a highlight, such as a lovely group sequence of accelerating hand-flicking, and the motif of wringing water from hair. Sascha Budimski’s electronic soundscape adds resonance to this accomplished work by a young choreographer, who is clearly one to watch.

 We are immediately plunged into a world of shelves and boxes projected onto a semi-transparent corrugated structure. Riley’s short film, Mulumna-Within, filmed by Cass Mortimer Eipper, and performed by Riley himself, takes us into an archive, with the camera tracking his restless, fast-moving figure as he criss-crosses the corridors in search of something. When his hands settle on a boomerang, he is transported into open country with his young son, Archie. Sequences of the pair painting their faces and hands with white body paint and walking through country alternate with scenes inside the archive, making a pointed distinction between First Nations ideas of knowledge embodied in the land and totemic objects and Western notions of it as something that be collected and catalogued.

 Mulunma is a Wiradjuri word meaning "inside, within", and the theme of exploring the individual’s inner landscape continues in Riley’s dance work, The Third. A line of white light traverses the corrugated structure at the back of the stage, before which stands a single immobile figure. A female dancer enters, rapidly joined by another, both dressed in loose, multi-coloured shirts and dun-coloured track pants. Their duet is robotic, with angular upper body moves emphasizing their disconnection. James Howard’s score veers from brooding electronics to chimes and pounding crescendos, and this variation is reflected in the movement sequences, as agitated solos and duets give way to more lyrical group sections. Connections between two female dancers are literally drawn with white paint on the floor, but relationships remain difficult with each seemingly involved in some inner turmoil.

 This is a strong first program from the company under Riley’s direction, which it is now taking on a regional tour of South Australia. It’s great to see Australia’s oldest continuous contemporary dance company confidently embarking on a new direction. 


Tour dates:

Monday 16 May - Port Pirie 
Thursday 19 May - Whyalla  
Saturday 21 May - Renmark  
Tuesday 24 May - Mt Gambier 
Friday 27 May - Golden Grove 
Thursday 2 June - Barossa
Saturday 4 June - Noarlunga  

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