REVIEW | Manifesto by Stephanie Lake Company

Manifesto Photo by Sam Roberts


Triumphant Encore: A Remarkable Fusion of Movement and Percussion

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

Amidst the diverse landscape of contemporary dance, a realm where boundless creativity finds its canvas, Manifesto by Stephanie Lake Company stands out as an exemplary embodiment of the harmonious fusion of rhythm and movement. Returning for an encore season, this production continues to exude the same infectious joy and awe that it did during its initial run. Bringing together nine dancers and nine drummers, the production orchestrates a dynamic fusion of percussion and movement, a vibrant celebration of human energy.

Stephanie Lake’s ambitious vision showcases the power of movement and music working in absolute harmony. As the performance unfolds, these artists become a single entity, starting with subtlety and gradually amassing intensity. The rhythms grow in complexity, mirroring the evolution of the movements. Frenzied energy blends with thrilling unisons as the raw, un-amplified sound envelops the audience with sheer power.

Manifesto Photo by Mark Gambino

Composer, Robin Fox, weaves a mesmerising musical tapestry using nine drum kits to create an outcome that is nothing short of astonishing. Who knew that so much variety in sound quality and intensity could be achieved with a seemingly simple instrument? The nine drummers, seated above and behind the dancers on Charles Davis’ inspired set, showcase their individual skills with an intricacy that leaves the audience in awe. The array of sounds generated by this ensemble of drummers is breathtaking. Each drummer shines as a solo artist while seamlessly collaborating to produce a soundtrack that feels as grand as a full orchestra.

Stephanie Lake’s choreography is an electrifying epiphany that ignites the stage with unmatched energy and artistry. The dancers, clad in costumes by Paula Levis, execute athletic choreography that mirrors the diversity and layers of the musical accompaniment. The performance opens with a single dramatic drumbeat, immediately captivating the audience and setting the stage for what’s to come. The dancers transition from pose to pose in an opening sequence that showcases their personalities and cheekiness. As the rhythm and movement build in tempo and volume, the dancers come together to flawlessly execute technical contemporary choreography.

The seamless coordination between the dancers and drummers is nothing short of remarkable. There are moments when it appears as though the music dictates the movements, while in others, the roles reverse, with the dancers leading and even conducting the drummers through their intricate steps. The choreography brilliantly showcases this dynamic interplay between the two groups, underscoring that this is a nuanced and profound collaboration between the dancers and drummers. This synergy between dance and percussion, integral to human ritual and artistic expression, is at the heart of the performance.

The most remarkable aspect is the ability of this seemingly simple idea to captivate and mesmerise the audience from the first thumping drumbeat to the final bow. Each rhythm and movement is executed with precision, demonstrating the technical prowess of the dancers and drummers. The brilliance of the score and choreography shines through in every moment, leaving the audience thunderstruck. The thunderous applause and standing ovation received are more than deserved, as it truly is a breathtaking experience.

Returning to the stage after a year, the production maintains the same magic and enthusiasm that made it a hit during its initial run. The commitment of the dancers to the performance is astonishing, and their movements transition seamlessly from intricate and nuanced to explosively energetic. The fact that the show’s fascination endures upon a second viewing serves as proof of its lasting appeal.

Manifesto by Stephanie Lake Company is a triumph of rhythm and movement, and a mesmerising display of human energy. With its innovative choreography, captivating music, and the extraordinary talent of the cast and crew, the return season rekindles the same joy and wonder that it elicited in its initial run, making it a must-see for both newcomers and those who had the privilege of witnessing its beauty before.

Manifesto presented by Stephanie Lake Company is playing at Arts Centre Melbourne from 25-28 October 2023. For more information or to purchase tickets please visit

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