• A scene from Jack Lister's 'Still Life'. Photo: David Kelly
    A scene from Jack Lister's 'Still Life'. Photo: David Kelly
  • The ensemble in 'Cult', by Hofesh Shechter.
Photo: David Kelly
    The ensemble in 'Cult', by Hofesh Shechter. Photo: David Kelly
  • 'Alterum', by Melanie Lane
    'Alterum', by Melanie Lane

Playhouse, QPAC, Reviewed May 27

Originally Three was to premiere as the lynchpin of the Australasian Dance Collective’s (ADC) 2020 season. However, that season, like so many others last year, was cancelled. The company nevertheless remained connected and creative, and 12 months on this season of Three has marked ADC as invigorated, emboldened, and very much at the cutting edge of contemporary dance in Australia.

Unsurprisingly, Three comprises three works, each by a different choreographer, in two world premieres and an Australian premiere. There is no thematic connection between the works, except, according to Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth, each choreographer’s “profound talent for connecting to audiences”. And connect they did, each work stylistically different, but curated to make a stimulating degustation of dance.

Melanie Lane’s Alterum opened the program. Latin for “other”, Alterum seeks to explore the supernatural body, referencing current and ancient mythologies, and the conflicting human desires to reach beyond our physical limits but retain our humanity.

The work is an assault on the senses, opening in silence with a woman (Chase Clegg-Robinson) crawling alien-like on the ground through the misty space. It’s an extraordinary solo of twisting, convoluted limbs.

In a smoky grey setting, beautifully lit by Glenn Hughes, the dancers, sporting black eye shades, wear unitards in various shades of grey, overlaid with tunics or long coats. Later this pervasive greyness is invigorated by flashes of red light across the space.

The pounding beat of Chris Clark’s score underpins a movement vocabulary that is strikingly original, much of it based on gesture, sometimes supported by a robotic bobbing, and a hypnotic pulsating of the hips, side-to-side. The early moments of superstar posturing, crisp and clearly defined, use stillness to create the most striking images of the work.

All six dancers were magnificent, but a solo by newest company member, the sinuously. lithe Tyrel Dulvarie (recently of Bangarra Dance Theatre), was especially mesmerising.

Jack Lister’s Still Life examines the inevitability and beauty of death and decay, framed by an exploration of the dichotomy between the permanency of visual art and the ephemerality of movement. Motifs like a wilting flower and the smoke of a snuffed candle are effectively evoked in the work to help denote this impermanence. The white set is gallery-like, comprising a central wall behind which the six dancers, in everyday clothes of various pastel colours, disappear and re-emerge 

Lister (also an ADC dancer) bravely draws his music from the classical canon – Chopin, Mozart and Bellini – as the beauty of the very familiar Chopin sometimes threatens to dominate the movement. Lonii Garnons-Williams and Dulvarie are, however, in harmonious synchrony, in a gorgeous duet where they barely touch. In contrast, Josephine Weise and Jag Popham’s continually contacting bodies act as an impetus for the movement, a fluidly sculptural sequence where the dancers seem almost boneless. It made an exquisite finish to the work.

The final and most keenly anticipated work was Hofesh Schechter’s Cult. Made in 2004, but never seen in Australia, its purpose, according to its creator, is to intrigue, to challenge. Conceived originally as a response to world powers and the repression of culture and the individual, the work sadly still resonates. 

It is a group work for six dancers ­– the women in red tunics, the men in brown nondescript suits. In the beginning the women’s fluid movement contrasts with the men’s more dynamic and percussive construct, with its strong reference to folk dance, including spins to the knees and other floor work. The intensity builds as the two groups move in and out of unison, arms flaying as they merge and then separate. In turn the dancers are sucked in and out of the darkness that envelops the stage. It was hypnotic to watch.

The score, also by Schechter, is an electronic combination, including voice, that accentuates the works disturbing undertones. Projected and spoken text gives further clues: “In the beginning there was darkness”, and in the final moments, “something to live for; something to die for”. Cult is a powerful work, and, at a short 15 minutes, left me wanting more.


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