KGDM, Miranda, Friday October 19
Reviewed by Karina Lawrence
Right from the arrival at the venue for the first ever performance of Una Palabra, there was an sense of mystery in the air. It was certainly not your usual venue for a performance, at KGDM in Sydney’s south, an almost warehouse-style set up with the co-working space Kingdom, in Miranda, that only enhanced the great collaboration of creating opportunities for the arts and buddy artists.
Una Palabra – translating to ‘a word’ in Spanish – is Neale Whittaker‘s debut show as a creative director. In our previous article Neale explained how the show evolved from the song ‘Una Palabra’ by Carlos Varela . “Originally, I had planned to make a dance video to the song, as I researched what each line in the song meant in English I started to explore the intention and meaning behind eight lines in particular that really resonated with me. Once I was done, I realised I had written a show. I started perusing different innovations on how I would put on a show, how to market something like this and how much it would cost, only to discover that it was very achievable. So, two years later, I stopped thinking and started doing and here we are!”
The ambience of opening night was revealed with the lift of the roller door, as the audience made their way in to be seated. Unfortunately, there was not enough seating planned which meant some audience members were required to stand for the 30 minute performance. However, on the upside, the audience were so totally engrossed and immersed in that half hour that time seemed suspended.
The space was simple yet effective with minimal staging and well executed LED lighting that coloured the staging area and stair case connecting a loft, as part of the set. It was innovative and intelligent in the way it enhanced the ever-changing atmosphere and journey throughout the performance, creating a futuristic feel in doing so.
To be applauded, Una Palabra was set to an original music score which was composed and directed by Patrick Mazzolo. It comprised both an orchestral and electronic texture with synthesised elements to create a rich, cinematic and diverse soundscape. It was alluring and enhanced the show’s vibrancy. Watching the dancers connect to the sounds and feel of the music, moving with such innovative and advanced awareness, made the audience also ‘feel’ the music.
The vision and time spent executing this work form the creative director Neale Whittaker was clearly apparent. The sense of authentic and ‘real’ creativity produced by some exceptional talent was certainly a credit to the collaboration from Neale and the entire cast: Aimee Whittaker, Pete Evans, Bianca Rezo, Eden Petrovski, Ben Zammit, Jordan Grant, Alex Miedzinski, Lucy Doherty and Neale himself.
Their focus and dedication of commitment to engage the audience, in not just the beautiful levels and layers of choreography, but the artistry behind the work, was obvious and well executed. Each dancer bought a special element whether they were performing a focussed solo part or group choreography. The staging area was indeed small, and again, the dancers achieved some incredible movement with such control and the ability to make you just forget that they were dancing in such a limited space. There was no denying credit for their expertise, talent and technique.
Neal’s vision was beautifully executed and indeed a positive testimony to his efforts in generating support for this production, in creating a mostly self-funded event with some help from some wonderful sponsors which allow for such creative works to be developed and executed in our slowly dying artistic community.
Simple and effective costume and make up design by Andrew Huynh definitely supported a futuristic, yet earthy, feel and complimented the essence of energy that was certainly delivered and a welcomed change in dance, through this art form.
I was left with a sense of wonder and excitement all at once, and definitely wanting more! Massive congratulations to Neale and the cast. I certainly believe this is just the beginning for Neale and a one-of-a-kind dance show that should be seen by many audiences.
Watch a snippet of Una Palabra as presented at the 2018 Australian Dance Festival in September: