Stompin Youth: working on the railway

Sue Moss

Stompin Youth, Primed

Stompin Youth, Primed

Stompin Youth’s latest performance embodies the energy of dancers in the process of becoming primed for life. Artistic director Jerril Rechter has situated Primed in the Inveresk Railyards Tool Annex—a large and echoing workshop constructed from galvanised iron. Daylight chinks through gashes in the walls.

Primed is a site-specific performance that requires the audience to move to 4 locations. This would be a manoeuvre of (t)error for any director lacking Rechter’s certainty. Stompin Youth effectively exploit the integrity of each space to perform a dynamically diverse, yet unified sequence of dance.

Site 1—Arcade. The beginning of Darrin Verhagen’s sound score evokes a Tibetan prayer bowl resonating pure sound from its rim. Two skateboarders mirror this effect by circling a huddle of dancers lying on the floor. Four women enter, each with a flashing strobe attached to their belt. Chelsea Billet demonstrates stylised movements which build to a frenetic pitch as the dancers respond to her theme. They grip, release and fall, alternating a kickbox movement with a Zen bow-pull action of the arms. A strobe is dropped and lies displaced, winking at a red ball clamped in mechanical arms that hover menacingly. The dancers acknowledge this threatening presence with alternating gestures of homage, longing and uncertainty. Sixteen dancers maintain the focus and patterns of connection as Jan Hector and David Murray’s lighting spills across dance to unrelenting dynamic and pulsing sound.

Site 2—Bedroom. Long strands of multi-coloured milk-crates dangle from the roof. Once released, the crates become seats for the audience. The area is in darkness and a slowed video sequence by Marcus Khan (from the original video Destination) establishes the elements of flirting, love and lust. Khans’ languid images highlight an evocative interplay of limbs and bodies while handmaidens unroll red and blue quilt covers onto randomly slanted beds. The actions of 4 entwined couples counterpoint dancers who sit or move alone. In a world saturated with commodity images of sex, this uncompromising sequence evokes the permutations of sexuality and corporeal codes. Stompin Youth dance the space of desire with authority and maturity.

Site 3—Scanner. A corner of the workshop is dramatically steeped with white light. Sun seeps through the corrugated walls. Five male dancers revel in their strength and potency, testing their physical limits in vigorous duo and trio combinations. The work of Adam Wheeler and Cheyne Mitchell (in his first performance with the company) is robust and skilful. These dancers self-launch from the walls with ballistic force. The operatic voice emerging from Verhagen’s score, and the tracking light grid accentuate the power of this performance. A feature of this site is the dancers’ use of the corrugated walls and framework to enhance the percussive and choreographic effects. The dancers demonstrate a subtle combination of physicality and vulnerability. They realise something other than strength is needed to survive the whispering static of their own uncertainties.

Site 4—House. This site is the most enigmatic and challenging for a school audience. An empty carriage gradually reveals faces looking out onto dark ground. The train arrives, dancers emerge then re-enter the carriage. Each compartment reveals an upstairs and downstairs level. Hector and Murray’s stunning lighting emphasises split panels that reflect and accentuate different body parts—hips, hands, heads and shoulders. When the lower level passengers exit there is an intriguing optical effect of surreal disembodiment.

Stompin Youth is a young company experienced in choreographic collaboration and working in multi-medial environments. Primed is a sophisticated production that successfully meets the demands of the workshop annex and the transitions across 4 sites. Launceston is fortunate to have a company that so effectively showcases the vitality and excitement of dance in a non-conventional theatre space.

Primed, Stompin Youth Dance Company in association with the Tasmanian Department of Education, artistic director/choreographer Jerril Rechter, choreographers/performers Cassie Anderson, Emma Anglesay, Sheona Anglesey, Claire Barker, Chelsea Billett, Rachelle Blakely, Mark Brazendale, Jo Briginshaw, Sally Anne Charles, Lilly Deeth, Elizabeth Elsby, Eve Flaherty, Sarah Hankey, Lauree Harris, Kylie Jackson, Tanya Lohrey, Kate MacGregor, Kathryn McKenzie, Cheyne Mitchell, Amalia Patourakis, Chris Philpot, Sandy Rapson, Ingrid Reynolds, Cory Spears, Lyndsay Spencer, Natasha Tabart, Nicola Watson, Adam Wheeler and Linda Voumard; composer Darrin Verhagen, designer Simon Terril, dramaturg Vanessa Pigrum, lighting Jen Hector & David Murray, video/documentary Marcus Khan; Inveresk Railyards Tool Annex, Launceston, August 31-September 2.

RealTime issue #39 Oct-Nov 2000 pg. 6

© Sue Moss; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2000