Austinmer Dance Theatre’s CONNECT Exposes Audiences to First Class European Contemporary Dance
PACT Theatre, Erskineville, Saturday September 15
Reviewed by Alisha Coon
In Europe shows of this calibre sell out every night to audiences of thousands. This evening’s performance of CONNECT by the esteemed boutique, contemporary Austinmer Dance Theatre deserves to be performed in front of thousands of people!
This triple bill played at the Sydney Fringe Festival and will perform at the Melbourne Fringe Festival from September 27 – 29.
The dancers only train together three days a week, however, this performance could easily be mistaken for a full-time professional company’s production. The quality of the choreography and the standard of the dancers is world-class, yet due to the lack of ‘theatre-goers’ in Australia, I am saddened that more people will not get to experience this incredible show.
CONNECT brings together the creative works of three life-long friends, bound together through their chosen art form and unrivalled friendship. Austinmer Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director and Choreographer Michelle Forte joins forces with European Choreographers, Maurice Causey and Ashley Wright to bring to life to these three pieces that push the boundaries of contemporary dance.
It opened with Ten People in the shape of a Lemming by internationally acclaimed choreographer Ashley Wright, takes us on an intimate journey that explores the relationship with self, others and our place in the world. The dark, earthy colours and deep atmospheric sounds set the tone for a very raw and mesmerising performance.
I was in awe at how the dancers executed the organic phrases of movement with such articulation and control. The flowing, interwoven group sequences were just a pleasure to watch. Every minute detail of choreography was performed with precision and clear intent, and the audience were on the edge of their seats right up until the rather eerie and emotive ending.
The second piece En Trance states in the program that ‘Concept and Direction’ is by Michelle Forte, which I assume means that the dancers created most of the choreographic content. I have a lot of respect for Michelle for not naming herself as the choreographer proper in this instance, as many ‘choreographers’ these days utilise dancers in this way and then credit themselves as the choreographer. this is clearly a collaborative creative process – which works.
In saying this, both the concept and choreographic content were phenomenal. The mix of voice, humour, emotion and movement was simply entrancing (as the title of the piece suggests). I loved the incorporation of breath and rhythm, call and response, and weight-bearing partnering in the choreography. The powerful unison sections really highlighted the dancers’ strong technique and gorgeous extensions.
The build-up of intense sounds, sporadic movement, yelling and laughing at the end was so incredible that it gave me goosebumps. The feeling you get when you are sitting so close to dancers who are giving 120 per cent right to the last second is just so soul-stirring.
The third and final piece of the evening was Hope Passion by Maurice Causey, who’s dance and choreographic career is nothing short of incredible. We are instantly transported into a serene landscape of circular and expansive movement sequences. The piece incorporated Tai Chi-like movements mixed with signature Causey steps like tight 5th positions and dynamic petit allegro.
The choreography really highlighted the diversity of the dancers, which was also reflected in the music as it transitioned between calm tones and ear-piercing high notes. The whole piece shifted up a gear in the finale, with intense red lighting and immaculate unison work. Causey expertly pieced together phrases from the intricate partnering sections and group sequences to create a powerful ending, leaving us with a slight glimmer of serenity to conclude the evening.
Now in their 8th year, Austinmer Dance Theatre is definitely a company to look out for. A huge congratulations to the dancers, choreographers, and especially the Artistic Director Michelle Forte for creating such a high quality evening of dance.
Melbourne – Dancehouse 150 Princes Highway, Carlton North
September 27-29 @ 7pm & Sept 30 @ 6pm
Bookings: melbournefringe.com.au / (03) 9660 9666 or dancehouse.com.au