Dance fix

Keith Gallasch at Nepean Dance’s Cynosure

Talk of a crisis in the Australian film industry is rampant. What about dance in Sydney? Compared with my memory of it in the 80s and early 90s the place is utterly dance-starved. It's enough to make me go out dancing; enough to send me back to the Sydney Dance Company (encouraged by unusally good word of mouth for Murphy's latest) or to the Australian Ballet (especially now that Stretton is seriously developing the company's contemporary repertoire). I'm immediately investing in tickets for Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Les Ballets C de la B at the 2000 Adelaide festival. Save occasional showings at Ros Crisp's Omeo Studio, where in Sydney is the flow of ideas and risks? It's a trickle.

Driven, I pack my bags and go on the long haul west, through rain and open paddocks (I kid you not—signage please!) to Nepean Dance's Cynosure program, a celebration of the forthcoming graduation of Third Year BA University of Western Sydney students. I'm also keen to see the new Centre for Contemporary Performance in operation. The main studio space is impressive, very big, but still intimate (like new generation cinemas), and it can hold plenty of dancers in an ambitious, and what must have been an exhausting program for a number of the dancers, and a very steep learning curve for stage management.

Despite a near overdose of Massive Attack backing the works of student and teacher choreographies, the program revealed enough inventiveness to keep the audience engrossed or at least curious and me happy. The works ranged from not-too-abstract modernist to Indigenous-lyrical to contemporary performance and permutations thereof. Jan Pinkertons' Chain of Life demanded group precision in its interweavings and regroupings and some strong solo work (notably from Brooke Clayton working on the floor, a counterpoint of seizure). Bernadette Walong in Push, pull encouraged the giving way that allows a wave to seem to ripple through the bodies of her dancers, though her material seemed a bit too familiar. Dean Walsh multiplied some of his solo work into a group piece. Instead of one Dean in blonde wig, one high heel shoe, an apron and nothing else—save an ironing board and some exquisite text of his own doing—we had 8 female dancers with same, save the nakedness (some horrible undergarment instead) and silent. No reversals, no inversions, no disturbing erotics (in the way Dean consistently transcends camp). Expertly put together as it was, and thematically consistent, and developed in collaboration with the dancers, there was something missing. However, by Scene 3 things had picked up with Gabriela Horvath Von Castello, Margaret McGillon and Julie Payne inhabiting a bizarre world almost straight out of burlesque (without the tassles!) but with the eerie charm and grace (although not at all imitative) of Pina Bausch dancers, nicely off-centre choreography, and bravely danced. As a bonus, a different group of students altogether performed visiting South African choreographer Sylvia Glasser's Rhythmical Ritual-Resounding Rocks, a disciplined and lyrical shaping of lines and circles to the clapping of rocks by all the dancers and performed with apparent commitment and pleasure. I'm really glad I made the trip.

Nepean Dance, Cynosure, Studio 1, Centre for Contemporary Performance, Uinversity of Western Sydney, September 23 – 25.

RealTime issue #33 Oct-Nov 1999 pg. 12

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 1999
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