Rehearsal Room 1, State Theatre Centre, reviewed March 4
Presented by Brooke Leeder & Dancers, Structural Dependency is an hour-long contemporary piece melding movement, space, light and sound. Showcasing Leeder’s dynamic and inventive choreography, is a true gift to the 2021 Perth Festival.
Set in the State Theatre Centre’s Rehearsal Room 1, the performance begins with electronic sounds and a repetitive beat. Ten dancers enter, one by one, through the side doors, all dressed in white shirts and white, wide-leg pants. As they form one line across the room, the dancers each engage in the same short movement pattern, each with slightly different timing to the other. The dancers repeat this pattern over and over, slowly linking their timing until they are in perfect unison. This choreography, combined with the impeccable spacing of the dancers and uniformity of the costumes, opens the show with an optical illusion-like impression that is both hypnotising and incredibly satisfying to watch.
The performance space is an unusual, but highly effective, choice for this work. The space is a simple rectangular room with mirrors on one side, and the audience’s seating is arranged in two single lines down opposite sides of the room. This not only allows the audience to have differing perspectives depending on where they are seated, but removes the comfort and security ordinarily found in a traditional proscenium stage. The venue design closes the gap between the audience and the performers, fostering a closer relationship between the two.
Indeed, as the beat dissipates and is replaced by a low hum of industrial-like sounds, the choreography settles into a slower, more measured segment where the dancers crawl across the sides of the room, leaning on the audience members for support.
The musical composition (created by Louis Frere-Harvey) and the lighting design (created by Nemo Gandossini-Poirier) steer the choreography throughout the performance. The mood and nature of the dancers’ movement shift with the changes in both the pace of the music and the colour of the lighting. Both designs effortlessly complement each other to create a multidimensional experience.
Throughout the piece, the choreography varies from groupwork to solos. The execution of the group work is particularly impressive, especially in the moments where clusters of dancers rapidly travel across the stage and execute several small, sharp lifts. The precision in these sections reveals the ensemble’s dedication to the piece and their attention to detail.
The highlight is in its final moments, where suddenly and unexpectedly the lighting snaps red and the entire ensemble returns. As the beat surges to resemble a blaring alarm, all 10 dancers perform in unison. The choreography is explosive and powerful and evokes a sense of urgency. I unreservedly applaud Leeder for bringing such a large portion of synchronised movement to this piece, as its effect is both dramatic and striking, to say the least.
The piece ends with the dancers returning to the optical illusion-like movement from before, engaging in repetitive patterns with different timings. Slowly, their movement becomes synchronised and, after a few cycles of the pattern together, they stop still. This connection between the beginning and end of the performance is skilfully and beautifully unexpected.
Structural Dependency is captivating from start to finish, and, in my view, is the highlight of the 2021 Perth Festival.
- ALANA KILDEA
Photos above: Two scenes from 'Structural Dependency'. Photos: Mitchell Aldridge.