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Review - IF_WAS: a dark, yet beautiful world


Choreographed by Ross McCormack and Stephanie Lake

Presented by Dancenorth

The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

Fortitude Valley


Until the 25th of June Bookings: 07 3872 9000

I often find that dance is one of the most difficult forms of performing arts. Dancers have to convey emotions and a story simply through the movement of the body. Of all of the different styles of dance like ballet, jazz and hip hop, contemporary has to be the most interesting of all.

It defies all sense and creates worlds with seemingly simple, yet complicated movements. Dancenorth’s double bill If_Was_ comprising the pieces If Form Was Shifted and If Never Was Now choreographed by Ross McCormack and Stephanie Lake respectively.

Artistic Director Kyle Page created the concept for these pieces, inspired by the Mental Simulation Theory. Each artist was asked to select “sound from the once sound score…costumes from one pattern…lighting from one design, work to a set duration and literally fill in the blanks.”

Dancenorth is a contemporary dance company based in Townsville. They make “outstanding, bold, new critically acclaimed work.”

If Form Was Shifted “is a virtuosic reflection of the thought process structured through group manipulation.” It “[reflected] the body at odds with its purpose” and was a mixture of group and solo work.

This piece was pretty harrowing. Through the use of consistently dull lighting and shrill and piercing music, this performance began in an eerie fashion. The first ‘scene’ – as I shall call it – began with one cast member separated from the group.

He performed a stirring solo in the way with which he held himself on stage and his controlled movements. This then led to more group involvement interspersed with other solos and duets. I have to say all of the dancers had extreme control over their bodies and it was an impressive sight.

The choreography by New Zealand’s Ross McCormack was very angular and this seemed to push bodies to the limit yet with effortless ease. I particularly enjoyed the beginning of this piece as it’s almost frightening nature let my imagination run free and I tried to come up with a suitable story that would interpret the dance.

Stephanie Lake’s choreography for If Never Was Now contrasted and complimented McCormack’s work really well. It really demonstrated “a surreal hive of buzzing activity reflecting the beauty and brutality of the natural world…The dancers [incubated] a strange world with a desperate forward momentum.”

Instead of the sombre attires of If Form Was Shifted the dancers were dressed in bright colours. The choreography was also angular and smooth but also incorporated a lot of group work that was perfectly in sync.

The lighting and sound were still sombre and shrill respectively with hardly a discernible beat, which made me wonder how the dancers were able to perform such rigid and well-timed movements.

My favourite part of this performance was the fact that small Styrofoam balls were used and interacted with. This created a bizarre squeaky soundtrack which layered with the existing one and evoked yet more imagery within my imagination.

Overall this double bill was thrilling and imaginative and indeed, bold. It pushed the limits of contemporary dance and demonstrated novel choreography by some of the world’s acclaimed artists. The sombre lighting, the piercing soundtrack, the sparseness of the surroundings within the space all highlighted what was going on, on-stage. Harrison Hall, Mason Kelly, Jenni Large, Ashley McLellan and Georgia Rudd all demonstrated their skills with grace and a tight sense of control. If Form Was Shifted and If Never Was Now were both interesting works in their own rights and really brought something to the performance space.

The movements of the dancers within the choreography really sparked my imagination and pulled me into a dark, yet beautiful world. It runs in Brisbane until the 25th of June.

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