Merge’s Beautiful & Melancholic Comment on Climate Change
Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brisbane, Sunday October 13th
reviewed by Kelii Grauer
Poetically titled Beautiful World, this new work by the 2019 cohort of dancers in Merge Dance Theatre‘s youth contemporary pre-professional training company is not shy in conveying their message and concerns about the environmental state of our planet as the effects of climate change take hold.
Through concept, theme and choreography, the artistic director/choreographer of Beautiful World has managed to perfectly articulate the modern day challenges of climate change for societies around the world. Clearly, this is a topic that the young cast could easily relate to which comes across through their passionate performances. In fact, it was eye-opening and saddening.
The bleak mood is further reinforced through the simple staging of a black backdrop and one lone tree on stage left as the only prop throughout. Images and quotes were projected onto the back of the stage to help narrate the story.
Through Merge Dance Theatre, Artistic Director Deanna Castellana, is offering a genius opportunity and gift to aspiring young performers. The company consists of Merge Dance Theatre’s junior, intermediate and senior groups that have all been accepted into the training program through audition and have worked in a pre-professional environemnt throughout the year. This show, Beautiful World, is the culmination of the year’s work.
The young cast experience the process and execution of a professional performance, from workshopping in rehearsal through to the elements of production including the choreography, performance quality and focus, lighting design etc. This production was nothing close to a dance school concert or eisteddfod. This was more in the realm of Sydney-Dance-Company-esque!!
I loved the choreography! Deanna’s spirited choreography really took the audience on a journey, with each piece having a distinct and different approach to the one before it. Thus, the show remained engaging throughout for the audience.
Although young, the cast really impressed me with its over all dedication and professionalism. The only way to distinguish the various age groups in the compony was really only by looking at them and specifically noticing their age and size differences, as their technique was consistent throughout. Overall, they were a strong technical group of dancers. Their enjoyment and commitment to the message and performance of the piece was evident. They danced with a mature understanding of performance which I was ‘wowed’ by!
There was also a lot of partner work throughout Beautiful World which is not usual for such young performers, and demonstrated fully the level of trust in each other in the cast, and the clean execution here was sensational.
I did notice that roughly two-thirds of the way through the performance that they were losing some of their precision, which is only to be expected with such a young and developing cast. Also, it was a long work, with no intermission, which would test the stamina of any dancer. This is something that performers of any age experience, and yet I go back to how amazing it is that these dancers are already learning this skill set in preparation for a career in the future. Congratulations Merge Dance Theatre!