Reviewed February 11
Although the initiative for the Australasian Dance Collective’s (ADC) Aftermath started a couple of years ago as a conversation between Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth, co-creator Jack Lister, and electronic artist, vocalist and songwriter Danny Harley, the creative period, with its sometimes-difficult search for a common theme or lynchpin, began early last year, just as the world shifted and the unimaginable became everyone’s new reality. That the multi-layered result is a dark, gritty and dystopian work should therefore be no surprise, but Aftermath is much, much more. From its initial blistering explosion of light, sound and movement this bold, audacious work positively thrills.
Aftermath is perfectly framed against the raw, industrial brick wall of the Brisbane Powerhouse venue. Blackouts, as part of Ben Hughes’s dazzling to smoky lighting design, are used potently to punctuate the work into short thematic stanzas of movement. Centre stage, a mobile sound console, like some outer-space vehicle, revolves on its axis after every section. Standing on it, with the movement surrounding him, a black leather-clad Harley creates the soundscape live.
And what a soundscape it is – powerful, evocative and with a pounding, insistent beat that drives forwards the movement, which is always at one with the sound. The effect is galvanising, as the score oscillates between high octane percussion and a more reflective sonorous continuum. A musical interlude mid-way through, with Harley on electric guitar and then keyboard, gives the dancers a well-earned breather while the sound washes over the audience.
All six ADC dancers were breathtaking, articulating with both power and finesse an extraordinary range of movement that segues from the gestural to the forceful and kinetic – the back wall effectively acting as a springboard for leaps or support for high suspended lifts.
In the opening solo, with its sudden moments of suspended stillness, Lonii Garnons-Williams showed a quality of boneless fluidity, while Josephine Weise, who has a beautifully defined muscularity, gave the sometimes throbbing, jerky movement clarity and definition. The nuggety Jag Popham, re-joining ADC this year, and apprentice Chase Clegg-Robinson, were also both equally impressive in this explosion of relentless but mesmerising energy.
A poignant duet between Jake McLarnon and Lister was a highpoint. Both dancers were wonderful, weaving in and out of each other’s orbit, initially evoking yearning and then conflict in a "fight" of slow, controlled and extended movement. The very tall, long-limbed McLarnon, who sadly retires this season, was perhaps the best I’ve seen him.
Digital program notes, read after the performance, describe the hour-long Aftermath as an exploration of “everyone’s truth of events transpired; memories placed, amassed, rearranged, shattered”, all the while accelerating “towards total recall". It’s an intriguing concept for a work, and in the main was clearly conveyed by its episodic construct. However, the repetition of the up-tempo opening moments at the work's conclusion felt thematically superfluous, although on reflection this repetition was undoubtedly the representation of “total recall”. I’m not sure if this is an argument for or against reading program notes prior to a performance, as the foot-tapping disco beat and high-octane nightclub vibe of these final moments, like a full-on dance-off, still had an intensity that was compelling. Part gig, part performance, Aftermath is exceptional.
Aftermath is ADC’s first main stage production in over a year. It cements the company’s change of creative direction under Hollinsworth and has set the bar high for subsequent performances in 2021. The season I believe was rightly a sell-out.
– DENISE RICHARDSON
All photos are by David Kelly.