Review: Pedal & Castles

Eliza Sanders is an astonishingly talented performer, of that there can be no doubt. Yet, the double bill performance of Pedal and Castles, of which she is the sole performer, lacks the necessary direction to be an entirely satisfying experience.

Every dance maker knows that the hardest show to pull off is a solo performance, even more so when one is creating it on oneself. Eliza and her brother Charles established the company House of Sand together in 2015 to combine their skill sets in the creation of live performance — Charles as a director, Eliza as dancer and choreographer.

Pedal and Castles are the two works that the sibling duo has brought to the Adelaide Fringe following successful seasons in the Eastern states and abroad.  They can stand alone and be viewed as non-linear performance, or as two parts of a whole. Pedal is an exploration of Eliza’s experiences over a year and a half following her graduation from the New Zealand School of Dance, and Castles concerns the next chapter of her life from there.

Both shows achieve a lot with very little in the way of staging. The stripped back walls of The Studio at Holden Street Theatres is a fitting backdrop, and limited set and costume are used to innovative effect in building the world that Sanders inhabits.

From their opening scenes, stream of consciousness monologue, song and dance flow together, at times seamless and satisfying in their delivery and other times pointlessly. This is the main issue with both works: while virtuosic in its cross-artform delivery, the individual scenes are so compartmentalised that a through line is difficult to discern. They are laid next to each other with little reference to each other, or the whole work and opportunities for coherent transitions are missed. This is likely part of the directorial approach, however over the two hours becomes frustrating.

Eliza engages the audience for the duration of both works, a stunning feat in itself, however, Pedal and Castles suffer from an affliction affecting far too much of recent contemporary dance; a lot of beautiful performance but too many ideas running wild.

In ten years time both Eliza and Charles will likely be leaders in their respective fields, and while Pedal and Castles are courageous works, they could use some guidance from a more established dramaturgical eye to be genuinely memorable.

Pedal and Castles will continue playing at The Studio at Holden Street Theatres, with a double bill showing on March 11, and individual respective performances on March 16 and 17.

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