• Photo: Chris Herzfeld Camlight Productions.
    Photo: Chris Herzfeld Camlight Productions.

Australian Dance Theatre: Be Your Self
Heath Ledger Theatre, 24 June -

ADT is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015. Dance audiences in Western Australia were privileged to be able catch the remarkable ADT dancers in performances of Garry Stewart's Be Your Self in both Mandurah and Perth and to acknowledge and celebrate this significant milestone.

Be Your Self is a unique and fascinating exploration of the human physical body and non-physical mind through the medium of contemporary dance-theatre. Stewart integrates the exactness of science with controlled yet, at times, seemingly unconstrained bodies in full flight. He further expands his creative boldness and choreographic daring in this thought-provoking and intense work.

A brilliant set by avant-garde architects Diller, Scofidio + Renfro, with a white floor extending into a low, textured fabric-covered ramp, which moves forwards and backwards, is used for video projections. A voice artist makes a startling appearance from it and the dancers work on and over it in many unexpected and inventive ways.

Sound designer Brendan Woithe's inspired electronic soundscape remains compelling throughout the 70 minutes. Bodily fluid and watery sounds and buzzes, zaps, creaks, sawing, retches, sighs, breaths, squeaks, roars, crashes, scrapes, thuds, throbs, panting, screeches, heart-beats and coughs provide rhythm and impetus for movement very effectively.

Lighting designer Damien Cooper works with an overhead grid with cool whites, blues and some ambers, overhead spotlights, sweeping search lights and strobe and provides light and shade (literally) to create atmosphere in what could become a clinical, scientific experiment instead of the engaging performance it was.

Costume designer Gaelle Mellis puts the three female and six male dancers and also the voice artist in white unisex tops and skirts, the dancers' skirts eventually replaced by very clever, similar but painted white skirts, which appear to be the dancers' lower torsos in brief gender specific underwear when standing still, and create bizarre angles of disjointed body parts in movement.

Highly scientific anatomical terminology, very wordy information about the body, and dry references to emotions are conveyed in several brilliantly delivered long monologues by non-dancing voice artist Annabel Giles on stage with the dancers and she provides a connecting link between the 'body' and the 'mind.'

Dancers Kimball Wong, Zoë Dunwoddie, Samantha Hines, Scott Ewen, Matte Roffe, Jake Mclarnon, Michael Ramsay, Thomas Founa, Lonii Garnons-Williams excelled in this testing, complex production and despite sections requiring robust athletic, gymnastic skill, the energy levels never waned. Distorted mime, exaggerated gestures, untamed expressions of sexuality with pelvic thrusting and manifestations of aggression are juxtaposed to gentle sensuous embraces and couplings.

In such a high standard ensemble piece, it was, nonetheless, difficult not to let the eyes follow the extraordinary Kimball Wong from his first yawn at the voice artist's technical description of his movement to his final frenetic solo. And Matte Roffe was astonishing in his first solo and throughout. He is clearly one to watch.

The ramp become a canvas through which arms, legs and backs protrude, creating shapes and images; video designer Brenton Kempster's projections onto the ramp are of faces, body parts, coloured patterns and images of swirling patterns which seem to flow from the body parts.

Be Your Self has interesting cerebral underpinnings and is an absorbing affirmation of both the body and the mind in an impressive and diverting dance work, which was loudly cheered by the supportive Perth audience.

On Saturday June 20 in the lovely Boardwalk Theatre at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre ADT presented a very warmly received 'redux' touring production of Be Your Self. With the same gutsy nine dancers in a wonderful performance but without the live narration, set, or projections, this was the 'distilled' version of the work and this production is touring to Dubbo, Wollongong, Tanunda and Marion.

- Margaret Mercer


Photos: © Chris Herzfeld Camlight Productions.

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