Adelaide Fringe 2012

Back of the Bus

0 Comments 26 February 2012

Presented by Java Dance Company
Pick Up Point: Adelaide Town Hall
SATURDAY 25 Feb 2012  (until March 11)


On a sweltering Saturday night I boarded an ordinary Kanga Kan charter bus and was taken on an extraordinary journey through the streets of Adelaide.

‘Back of the Bus’, presented by Java Dance Company combines physical comedy and dance to createa high energy show performed almost entirely on a moving bus. A character based performance, Back of the Bus has no concrete storyline. Instead the audience is introduced to a handful ofcharacters through a series of tightly choreographed solo and group routines performed to an enchanting and, at times, otherworldly soundtrack of French inspired tunes (with a few well known classics thrown in). Each performer has their own unique role to play and they have clearly invested a lot of time and effort into developing their character’s individual persona. From their posture and facial expressions to how they use the limited space within the bus, the performers succeed in bringing each character to life for the audience.

As we boarded what was to become our moving stage my mind raced with possibilities, but no amount of speculation could prepare me for the stunning show that was about to take place. We had barely left Adelaide Town Hall (the pickup point and only previously known location for this show) when the music and performing began. A fast paced, comedic opening routine introduced us to one of many characters who would join us on our travels and set the pace for a spontaneous adventure through Adelaide.

While it promises “a site specific dance tour of Adelaide” the exact locations are not revealed to the audience prior to the event and according to Java’s co-founder and artistic director Sacha Copland, this adds an exciting and mysterious feel to the show. “I love the idea of travel in Limbo”, Ms Copland said. “In a way it’s free time; you know it’s not time where you have to do anything so there’s a sort of liberation in it”. Indeed, once the tour began I was far too enthralled in the excitement andanticipation of the show to notice where I was within the city.

If the performers were affected by the intense heat or unpredictable movements of the bus they certainly didn’t show it. Their energy was contagious and I often found myself bopping along to the beat, eagerly awaiting each new routine. The spontaneity of the show is its biggest drawcard, you never know when or where a new character may appear and this helps maintain audience interest. I found myself surprisingly alert, watching everyone on the bus, just waiting for the next lot of music to begin.

Java’s website describes the company’s style as “Dance that gets underneath your skin” and it’s notuntil after the show that you come to understand what this really means. The performers get in yourface and in your space so be prepared to leave any preconceived notions of ‘personal space’ at the door.

“The performers will invade your personal space quite a bit” explains Ms Copland, which allows the audience “to be inside the character’s journey rather than watching it from the outside”. This unique approach to audience interaction adds a whole new level of excitement to the performance and I loved being able to interact on such a personal level with the characters. You never knew when or if a character was going to approach you or just what they had planned and this made the journeymore thrilling. The limited seating on the bus created an intimate setting for the production and I loved how the performers took the time to approach each audience member at some stage duringour journey.

Back of the Bus is Wellington based Java’s first performance in Adelaide and I pray it won’t be their last. Whether you’re a fan of dance or just intrigued by its concept, Back of the Bus is sure to delight and astound you. From its hugely funny opening sequence to its toe tapping finale it had me hooked. The only problem with this show is that one hour just wasn’t enough.

Back of the Bus runs from 24February to 11 March, tickets available through Fringetix.

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