Adelaide Fringe 2013

Remnants Found In You

0 Comments 21 February 2013

Remnants Found in You

Usually a piece of contemporary dance has me wishing my body would move with such grace and fluidity. I envy the imagination of the choreographer. Many times I have cried; actual tears. Remnants Found In You certainly has its moving moments.

The performance takes place at the Lion Arts Centre with a relaxed, cabaret-style seating plan. The tables are candlelit and black, and velvet curtains frame the stage. It’s a sophisticated atmosphere. The show itself is made up of three distinct pieces; Katie Chown’s O-Sea, Juanita Jelleyman’s Shade:less, and Lucinda Coleman’s Spring.

O-Sea begins with young Samantha Coleman performing a chaotic combination of spins and leg extensions. Dancers enter the small stage from both sides, until it is filled with six people performing different sequences of choreography. They bump into each other, intentionally, and narrowly miss a disastrous impact. While this feat is impressive, the choreography is fast, messy and confusing. There is too much going on at any one time. That said, the rare moments when the dancers are still are poignant and refreshing. At intervals throughout the piece, performers exit so that one or two dancers are left. These allowed standout dancers Ben Chown, Andrew Haycroft and Charity Ng to really shine. These three performers are strong, flexible and graceful. They remain firm during lifts and are always in control of their movements, even when they appear unrestrained.

Despite the cluttered choreography, I saw the emotion and meaning behind the piece. The dancers rally around Samantha, reaching for her and mourning her stillness. They support each other, as relatives might after a death in the family. A tender moment between Benjamin and Andrew even had me blinking back tears. Benjamin falls back onto Andrew, who, lying on the ground, holds him above his head and body. Benjamin’s pose is reminiscent of crucifixion. The dancers pause. Benjamin takes a deep breath. It is beautiful.

The star performance of the night is Shade:less, the second piece. Choreographed by New Zealander Juanita Jelleyman, Shade:less explores the dynamic between unity and community in helping the isolated in society. I interpreted the choreography as the performers’ struggles with mental illness. The emotions are raw and powerful. It begins with Esther Van Baren emerging backwards, hands wrapped around her chest as though literally trying to hold herself together. Each movement and pose is dynamic and filled with tension. The stage is fully utilised, but never cluttered. The soundtrack is intriguing, consisting of original music by James Bryant, repetition of the phrase ‘it’s okay’ by Hannah Bryant, and songs, Fragile by Peter Jelleyman and Last Night I Heard Everything by Oliver Tank. This combination of contemporary music and voiceover climaxes with one of the dancers stopping and shouting at the audience, ‘It’s not okay!’

Spring is the final piece of the set, with five dancers performing spirited and joyful choreography, accompanied by the Mahlot String Quartet. It is a wonderful privilege to experience a dance performance with live music, but the quartet could have been better utilised with performers reacting to each other, adapting their movements to the sound. At one point, the dancers start before the music, before hastily attempting to slow down and resynchronise. Choreographer Lucinda also repeats the motif of dancers intentionally bumping into each other. Although it works better with fewer performers, it still comes across as clumsy and unattractive. The choreography is enjoyable and many of the lifts are spectacular, even creative and original. The piece is simply gleeful, however, without any discernable meaning. In keeping with the spring theme, the performers wear green dresses with white lace flowers designed by Kate Emily Townsend. The program insists that it is a conversation between four generations, but this intention is unclear to the audience, especially since the dancers appear to be the same age. Still, if art for the sake of art is your thing, Spring delivers joyful dance by four talented performers.

Remnants Found In You disappointed me because the title led me to expect themes which explore the human condition. I like to be overwhelmed by emotion when I experience contemporary dance. Shade:less delivered this implicit promise – suggesting that community and companionship is crucial to overcoming an individual’s isolation – but the other pieces failed in this respect. Still, each works has something unique to offer audiences – whether it be original music, talented performers, or beautifully constructed lifts.

Remnants Found in You runs until March 21 at Nexus Cabaret, Lion Arts Centre as part of the Adelaide Fringe 2013.

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