LOcREaDO Dance Company’s 2021 production, “Grounded”, was a special performance. It featured the company’s first ever dance training program for adults (as opposed to young adults, as previously) and it was the first one directed and choreographed by Vi Lam. (Director of LOcREaDO, Loredo Malcolm, is currently a core cast member in Hamilton.) The show, which was performed to a full house on Monday night at NIDA Parade Theatre in Sydney, was divided into two halves – Act 1 featuring the 15 members of the inaugural adult training program, Act 2 choreographed by Lam in collaboration with five local professional and emerging artists.
This was the culmination of a three-year process for Lam. His excitement was palpable. “The workload was tough, but we’ll do whatever it takes to have a platform for people to express themselves on stage and for people to come and appreciate it,” he said. “So the work was both the fun and the reward. When you’re in the studio, when you hit the stage and people come in sit down to watch – that’s the icing on the cake, the cherry on top. Whatever it takes to have a cake every now and then - we will do it. Anyone would.”
Malcolm’s introductory speech made it clear that the introductory adult class was very close to both his heart and Lam's hearts. It was LOcREaDO’s way, he explained, of giving adult dancers the opportunity and the courage to do more with their passion for dance than open classes and for ex-professionals the opportunity to rekindle the joy of performing that had once been a major part of their lives. The cast’s ages ranged from 25 to 44 and there was one special member, a “little human inside one of the dancers”, Malcolm explained.
The choreography - by Vi Lam, Millie Slennett, Chima Olujie, and Chanel Cheung- was crafted both to entertain and show off the scope of the dancers’ abilities. A fast-pace dance piece, its succession of mood transitions from lyrical to dynamic were underlined by changes in lighting and costume. The audience’s response confirmed that the idea was a great success.
The professional piece was a revelation, not only because it was Lam’s first full-length professional choreography. If now is the time for women to claim their place in the world and achieve their grandest ambitions, this was women’s anthem in dance. Its standout physicality was blended with undisguisable sensuality, confidence and a new kind of femininity – the 2021 kind of femininity. Its dancers, Millie Slennett, Chanel Cheung, Jahni Clarke, Samantha Leon and Sophia Kaloudis, were five strong women with something to say to their audience. The message was, “we can” and “we will”. For the audience, the "icing on the cake, cherry on the top" were the two cameo appearances on stage by Lam – two pas de deux, one raw and aggressive, the other intensely poetic. LOcREaDO appears to have taken one more successful stride in its evolution.
When Loredo Malcolm founded LOcREaDO in 2009, Lam became his right-hand man immediately, the two of them funding the initiative themselves through income earned from Malcolm’s stream of performance contracts and Lam’s teaching positions and gigs. The pair launched their first workshop and then their first show in 2010 with Vi performing as a principal dancer. They continued to fund the company from their own pockets, its dance training mentorship programs and the shows that people came to see until 2020.
In the meantime, they launched The Combination together in 2018, to develop more opportunities for contemporary dancers by mentoring young dancers progressing to commercial work. Its first project supported the careers of 10 local choreographers.
“We were able to give out $9000 worth of grants coming from our own pockets. We chose 10 local choreographers to put on a piece that was judged by Charmene Yap from Sydney Dance Company and Rhiannon Newton from Ausdance,” Lam explained. It was Vi’s first time choreographing a stage show in collaboration with Malcolm.
In 2019, Malcolm and Lam were able to raise $11,000 from the dance community through a GoFundMe project to hand out paid contracts and hold the company’s first fully professional show in September, 2020, as soon as lockdown restrictions were lifted. “We were the first contemporary performance on stage in Sydney after lockdown,” Lam explained with pride.
This year’s adult training program was launched by request, preceded by 12 young adult training programs run once or twice a year for as long as the company has existed. The LOcREaDO Adult Course Season 2 begins in June 2021.
- CANDIDE McDONALD