Current Issue #478

Review: The Beginning of Nature

Review: The Beginning of Nature

The first in Garry Stewart’s Nature dance series, Habitus, premiered only two weeks ago, and only a fortnight later here was the second, The Beginnings of Nature, at WOMADelaide.

It is a significant piece, as it incorporates in its score Kaurna, the original language of the Adelaide region, a homage to the origins of nature, appropriately presented in Adelaide’s Botanic Park.   But it is also significant for the continuing development of Stewart’s style of movement. Still punishingly athletic, it has greater fluidity, less angularity than was once the case.  While there are no big jumps or barrel rolls in the air, arm movement is extremely varied, and sometimes over-used, much of the action is on the floor, there is enlivening contrast between fast and slow, and structure within sequences is generally firm. The quiet beginning, with slow open movement, hints at narrative, with green branches brought in and Matte Roffe striving to rise from the floor.  Later, Michael Ramsay and Zoë Dunwoodie enter, glued to each other by the lips, and continue like this while moving, creating what must be the longest ever kiss in a dance work. Meant perhaps to lead to the continuance of humankind? Further fecundity is symbolised by a tree brought in at different times, Thomas Fonua and Ramsay dancing and twirling long green sticks, and finally a dying Kimball Wong being covered by the rest of the cast with small leafy branches after an extraordinary long, strenuous struggle to rise from the floor – the end of the cycle which allows life to begin again. The-Beginning-of-Nature-Tony-Lewis-Adelaide-Review-WOMADelaide-dance-adt-asutralian-dance-theatre At a first viewing the work does not appear to have a clear line of development, and there is some repetition, particularly in solos for Samantha Hines and Dunwoodie, but many images stay in the mind – Ramsay in a whirl of superfast travelling spins, a complex solo by Samantha Hines, the cast in a diagonal line, couples facing each other moving this way and that from the waist, quick body rolls across the stage floor, the inventive variety of hand and arm movement, and the  round pyramid formation, the women on the men’s shoulders, arms linked, rising above the recumbent Wong, symbolizing the renewal of life. The precision, intensity and stamina of the cast ensure a high voltage performance of the relentless demands of the choreography. Brendan Woithe’s sonorous score was given full value by the Zephyr Quartet playing on stage and the two Kaurna singers, Vanda Last and Shaunti Batzke.  Draped white tunics for the whole cast by Davis Browne Designs give an aptly classical look, and contribute to the choreography’s fluidity, though at times being inelegantly revealing.  And it must be said that the high WOMADelaide  stage was far from ideal for a work with so much happening on the floor. I look forward to seeing The Beginnings of Nature in a more conventional space. The Beginning of Nature was performed at WOMADelaide by Australian Dance Theatre on Monday, March 14 Photos: Tony Lewis

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