Geoff Gibbs Theatre
The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) end-of-year dance season "Verge" is a high-quality program featuring three beautifully staged and lit works. Quixote Suite is remounted by Kim McCarthy and Danielle Hunt, and two new contemporary works, The Resistance and That Was Then, are choreographed by Brooke Leeder, and WAAPA alumnus Richard Cilli respectively.
The program opened with Quixote Suite, an exuberant, uplifting, re-arranged mix of selections from Petipa’s Don Quixote, brilliantly danced by 1st 2nd and 3rd year students to live music. The musicians are placed on the stage apron, with a grand piano, violin (Runa Murase), guitar (Abbey Bradstreet) and percussion (Louis Frere Harvey) with the Minkus score re-worked by Gennaro Di Donna who is also the pianist. In this festive Spanish Spring setting amidst the bougainvillea, the musicians are playing and the dancers chatting on stage as the audience drifts in. Joshua Arkey sets the mood and a very high standard as he launched into an ebullient gypsy solo, revving up the group before we see Kitri’s Act 1 entrance, a lively Seguidilla and Act 1’s flirtatious pas de deux played live by the guitarist with comic interaction with the dancers. Mercedes and the lead Matador fuel the passion, along with all the fiery, much-loved pas de deux, solos and trios from Acts 1 and 111, and charismatic girlfriends, matadors and bridesmaids and a fabulous finale. With confident, technically accomplished performances all around, Evelyn Roberts (tossing off the fouettés with awe-inspiring nonchalance), Kristin Barwick, Alexander Diedler, Marcell Stiedl, Jessica Haynes, Lilly King, Saskia Harman and William Halton were outstanding.
Next is The Resistance, splendidly performed by 17 2nd year BA students dressed in red. It begins as they are grouped on stage under a large, white, lit panel suspended overhead. Set to an electronic composition by Pavan Kumar Hari, the group initially moves in impressive unison as their movements respond to percussive beats. The tempo increases and smaller groups form, releasing and extending the shapes with flying bare arms, spins, and faster and more urgent, running and falling. Two males show skill and daring in athletic, gymnastic spiralling and overhead lifts with competitive undertones. As the volume builds, repetitive movement and gestures become driven and frenetic and the overhead panel tilts alarmingly, then continues to slowly lower over dancers crouching helplessly underneath as the lights dim and the curtains close.
Concluding the evening is That Was Then, a stunningly well-performed, entertaining, wonderfully honest, at times piercingly dark and occasionally humorous reflection on Richard Cilli’s life in dance through the eyes, voices and shared dancing experiences of 24 talented 3rd year BA students. With an original score by Tobias Merz, which includes the delightfully ironic (in this context) John Denver song "Sunshine On My Shoulders", several white, square "soapboxes" are set on the stage and a small screen at the back shows a young child in a tutu dancing a classical variation as the dancers on stage watch. The screen video-footage continues through the work, with young dancers in competitions, studios, halls and at home, dancing their hearts out. Well-written, clearly spoken, concise, witty snippets of recollection by individual dancers are fascinating and revelatory.
The eclectic choreographic style is an organic response to the work’s concept and the score, and the dancers met the demands of challenging choreographic ideas with flair. Finally, amidst unrestrained, uninhibited leaps, one dancer tries in frustration to perfect static classical positions before dispassionately abandoning the task. The work ends in the dancers’ forward-looking final words: “What’s Next?”
-- MARGARET MERCER
Footnote: This excerpt was in the printed program accompanying Richard Cilli’s 'That Was Then'.
“And it heartens me to recall how, at the end of each morning’s class, the dancers split into bunches of four or five and rush in diagonal leaping surges across the studio. Group after group they come, without pause or hesitation, driven by the music in an endless stream of energy. They manifest the tremendous onwardrushingness of life, which has only one destination and yet constantly renews itself, full of a joy that transcends words.”
Helen Garner – ‘In The Wings’ -- The Age 2005, and Collection of Essays 'Everywhere I Look', 2016.