Over the past two years, Australasian Dance Collective has borne the brunt of natural disasters particularly acutely. COVID forced the cancellation of the inaugural season of THREE just days before opening night. The triple bill’s second iteration in March this year made it through one dress rehearsal only for flooding to postpone its premiere. While the first season had to wait another year to debut, version 2.0 is here after “only” four months, thanks to a change of venue.
Presenting an all-Australian, choreographic line-up to commissioned ambient compositions, this program is stylistically less diverse than the previous one, both in terms of movement and sound. The three pieces were created in conjunction with the dancers and come under an umbrella of introspection.
Cass Mortimer Eipper’s Limbic is presented in tandem with his parallel short film Liminal, which was created on ADC and presented last year. Screening in the foyer, Liminal also features sound by Alyxandra Dennison and Zoe Griffith’s costumes.
In case you were wondering, the limbic system comprises our brain structures concerned with emotion and motivation, while liminal relates to a sensory threshold.
Three of Liminal’s cast remain with the company (Jack Lister, Lonii Garnons-Williams and Chase Clegg-Robinson), and Limbic’s genesis acknowledges seven previous members of the collective as creative development contributors. The finished product has been created collaboratively by Mortimer Eipper with its current dancers: the aforementioned trio and Tyrel Dulvarie, who were joined in January by former ADT dancer Harrison Elliot and independent artist Lilly King.
Referencing the sensory and the cognitive, the conscious and unconscious, the work explores perception and free will in the human experience. The grouping and patterns echo these themes, tracing ever-evolving interactions against the aural backdrop’s unsettled and insistent mood. Moments of individuality become absorbed into clusters of group unison which then fragment, the bodies forming new connections in varying configurations. At times dancers come together in sync, at others there’s a push-pull dynamic where control and balance are tested. Running contrasts with sudden freezes and staccato impulses (in one instance, a chicken head comes to mind).
Along with floor work, there are sections evoking communal dance forms, such as clubby pulsation and voguing hand movements, and a travelling line pattern of steps and jumps. Other movements accompanying voices and squeals in the score suggest animal poses and nascent steps.
The viewer will respond individually to what they see; the myriad images encapsulating “the vastness that floats beneath the surface”, as Mortimer Eipper identifies in his programme notes – the parts we cannot be conscious of that remain inaccessible. What is certain is the skill the artists bring to the execution, as well as their commitment to it.
Something There is That Doesn’t Love a Wall is Kate Harman’s first mainstage creation for ADC.
Taking its title from the opening line of Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall, it tackles the figurative barriers we employ to protect ourselves, but may also limit our own freedom to fully be ourselves.
The ideas are clearly represented in the work’s structure and style. A spotlit individual stands alone looking outwards with a disconcerted expression, before a Twister tableau of bodies begins noisily squirming across the stage en masse, punctuated by ows and laughs. As arms and legs reposition, the cluster collapses and resets to the sound of a radio dial tuning.
When it breaks up, dancers climb and jump onto each other and begin a game of human dodgems. (Think contact improvisation gone crazy.)
Then they break free of each other in a frenzy of individual activity, running, throwing themselves to the ground, diving and rolling. The influence of Harman’s fellow co-founder of The Farm, Gavin Webber, and Ultima Vez is evident here.
Re-engagement occurs with varying degrees of tentativeness and testing, contemplation and support.
The most exhilaratingly memorable sections convey unbridled freedom – a pair of dancers gripping forearms move in a circle building rapid momentum, before one is flicked into a death spiral.
Upward reaching jumps and lifts are supported before what seems an inevitable reset again. Ethereal vocals and percussive tinkles in Anna Whitaker’s score herald slow-motion contemplation of both others and self, as the work moves towards a restrained reflective conclusion that takes a little too long.
The starting point for Gabrielle Nankivell’s The Incandescent Dark is again the sculpted Garnons-Williams.
The piece’s title and additional concepts of apertures and holes are effectively evoked by the movement shapes presented, in combination with chiaroscuro lighting by Ben Hughes and the layered build of Luke Smile’s pulsing keyboard chords.
Large arcs, dervishes and helicopter legs give way to smaller, more intricate curves, snaking arms and genuflections.
Traditional steps, pirouettes, jumps, lines and abstracted versions add a technical element largely absent from the other two works, as well as an enjoyable aesthetic and dynamic.
The internal focus of this season of THREE produces a less visceral response than the previous one, but watching accomplished artists possessing such physical command is always a pleasure.
Australasian Dance Collective’s THREE is at the Powerhouse Theatre, Brisbane until 16 July.