What an exciting development in the young lives of Collaboration – The Project and 2nd Toe Dance Collective! The recent delight on the menu is “Something Blew” a collection of three works with HARD-HITTING, interesting and THOUGHT-PROVOKING subject matter.
Let me start by saying that it is extremely easy for a dance show to become just another dance show. What separates a good dance show from a great one is simple – Entertainment. This is the key ingredient in any art form, whether it is Musical Theatre, A Play or a man in the street standing on his head singing Jacque Brel. Last night, I was not disappointed.
The opening piece was entitled “Lit”. Choreographed by Benjamin Hancock and Rebecca Jensen, this piece set the scene for the evening – and gave it a twist! The audience were given torches pre-show, and invited to become part of the performance. In total darkness, Benjamin and Rebecca danced to the torch light. Both clearly accomplished and intelligent dancers, their strength and sense of each other were driven towards an exploration of “shadow”. I found myself almost hypnotized by the figures moving in the dim light. I could choose where to look – sometimes at the giant shadows on the rear wall, sometimes at the darting silhouettes on the floor, and sometimes at the dancers themselves. This wasn’t at any moment two dancers “demonstrating” their ability – It was two creative beings acting as a selfless vehicle to a simple, creative and thoughtful idea.
The second piece came out of the blocks like Usain Bolt after a Red Bull. Entitled “Down the Rabbit Hole” this was an excerpt from Collaboration – The Project’s upcoming season in October. A dark adaptation of the classic Lewis Carrol novel “Alice in Wonderland,” this one packed a punch! Paul Malek’s choreography was impressive – complimenting the subject matter well. However I feel his real achievement was allowing the dancers the freedom to act. This piece wasn’t bright, it wasn’t fluffy and this Alice was certainly no “little Miss Sunshine”. The piece opens with a scared and vulnerable Alice down the rabbit hole. We hear echoes of muffled voices and cries from all around. The familiar White Rabbit enters down stage – although something is different. We soon learn that this variety of white rabbit harbors a penchant for all things sinister and deviant – Sex, Drugs and Manipulation! Kim Adam is dynamic as our “led by the wayside” hero. She is grounded, strong and stands feet above her real height when she needs to pull the White Rabbit into check, but also cleverly allows herself to be drawn into his submissive spell. Brendan Yeates is excellent as our villain. He took the choreography he was given, and injected it with an illegal substance! He had been given the brief for a sinister, drug-riddled White Rabbit, and what he gave us was a character; one we believed, at any moment, could come crawling over our way… These characters are what I want to see. Don’t show me dancers dancing – I can watch T.V for that. Show me a piece where I get swept up in a story – where the dancing is merely wood on the fire. This was entertainment. I certainly look forward to the next installment from Collaboration!
After an interval we were treated to the main course – “Something Blew”. A modern take on the old English proverb “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue”, this is one section of a four-part major project currently being developed by 2nd Toe Dance Collective. The colour blue – a symbol of purity, modesty and fidelity, is rocked to its core in this highly charged, and often confronting modern interpretation. The ensemble must be mentioned first. Benjamin Hancock, Tyler Hawkins, James Andrews, Frankie Snowdon, Madeleine Krenek and Jorijn Vriesendorp are simply excellent. You can just tell when a show means everything to those who perform in it. It is just something extra, and unspoken, that an audience admire. Produced by Paul Malek and Collaboration, intelligently directed by Paul Malek and Adam Wheeler – this piece promises to be a ripper! Megan Fitzgerald’s lighting was spot on – pun intended! The combination of stark and dim set a mood of constant uncertainty as the piece explored themes of despair, forbidden sex, jealousy, lust and violence. I found myself cringing, laughing, and shivering – especially at the climax of the piece! A must see and something to challenge you and your current understanding of ‘companionship.’
I walked away from the theatre entirely satisfied. Here are two young companies forging a path for themselves. The work is challenging, theatrical and most importantly – entertaining! This is all being achieved without financial support – but rather it is being financed by a passion and a desire to dance – a currency far more rewarding!
Written By Melbourne’s DanceLife Correspondent MATTHEW MCFARLANE