Alan Brissenden reflects on the myriad dance projects that have taken place thus far through the Adelaide Dance Festival and surrounding events.
A rat crawling through an 11,000-volt piece of equipment in the Festival Centre, blowing a fuse, was all it took to send a blanket of darkness over the Australian Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty in the Festival Theatre and Australian Dance Theatre’s The Beginning of Nature in the Dunstan Playhouse.
The audience was just filtering in for the third Act of the ballet but the ADT was only nine minutes away from finishing Garry Stewart’s The Beginning of Nature. The dancers just kept on dancing — their feet and bodies hitting the floor in the perfect timing that had been so impressive throughout the performance. Eventually a voice called out, “Sorry everyone! We’ve lost our lights”. Torches shone, the cast and crew gathered onstage and the audience stood, cheered and roared.
Stewart’s latest work was first seen in embryonic form at Womadelaide 2016. It has developed into a splendid showcase for the physicality and range of his own choreography and the skill of the performers. Dressed in David Browne’s free-swinging green tunics, they leap, tumble, whirl vertiginously, move with gentle quietness, form groups which melt into individuality. Energy surges from the stage. Nature as a theme is there from the start, and appears in various guises. Long green poles are brought in from time to time, eventually becoming a wigwam. A tree becomes central to a duet, and then a quartet of dancers. Water poured from a large conch shell revives an exhausted performer supine on the floor.
The dancing is not merely accompanied by but is an extension of Brendan Woithe’s music — a combination of Zephyr Quartet’s strings, electronica and the singing in Kaurna language of Heru Pinkasova and Karen Cummings. And Damien Cooper’s lighting contributes essentially to the success of whole work.
As well as presenting this enthralling work, Stewart had the idea of mounting the first Adelaide Dance Festival of which it is part. To give the 800-plus delegates to Dance Congress Panpapanpalya (a Kaurna word for coming together) the opportunity to see Australian dance and dancers on their home ground, he programmed six shows, five of them on Wednesday 11 July. For The Cubic Museum a large Perspex cube was installed in the SA Museum in which three choreographers drew inspiration from the Museum collections and archives.
In the Space Theatre Lina Limosani, Tara Jade Samaya and Kialea-Nadine Williams performed Limosani and Al Seed’s dance-theatre piece The Spinners, based on the three Fates of Greek mythology who spin, weave and finally cut the thread of human life. But what if one of them has doubts about what they do? The threads they cut are thrown into a large bin, and a troubled Limosani has to be rescued by the other two when she climbs into it herself. The relationships between the three are both emotional and physical, expressed in fluent, varied movement, but the effectiveness is lessened owing to too much repetition. What impresses is the sincerity and skill of the dancers.
At UniSA’s Samstag Museum of Art a man and five women gave two performances of Alison Currie’s latest work, Creatures, created in response to artist Aldo Iacobelli installation, A Conversation with Jheronimus (i.e., Hieronimus Bosch) — a large cart loaded with sweet-smelling hay, surrounded by small mobile black-painted objects on the floor. The dancers, often in unison, moved in silence except for the sound of their feet on the floor, and their breathing, the choreography often developing from stillness through gradual acceleration. Necessarily, they moved through the audience, who then became part of the performance. At a little over 30 minutes, Creatures gave gentle satisfaction.
And the Dance Festival goes on, with Queensland’s Dancenorth’s Rainbow Vomit Tuesday, July 17 to Thursday, July 19 at the Odeon in Norwood, Dancing Room — dance for everyone for free at the Queen’s Theatre, 6.30 on Wednesday, July 18 Freestyle Session (i.e., breakdance) at the Odeon in Norwood at 12pm on Saturday, July 21 , and Flow, two nights of dance films at the Mercury at 7.30pm on Thursday, July 19 and Friday, July 29, along with much more.
Visit adelaidedancefestival.com for more show times and tickets.