Tag: Dance Massive

Dance Massive Presents DIVERCITY

An experience of joy

By Joana Simmons


When you live away from home and reside in the city, on someone else’s land, does it change your relationship to country?”

In Divercity, Bundjalung/Yaegl choreographer Mariaa Randall guides us with dance, colour and conversation to explore this idea. Presented by Arts House and performed Henrietta Baird and Waiata Telfer (who also choreographed) this was one show to catch this season. Set in front of a projection; the movement, dialogue and structure are all impeccably defined. This work is a look at indigenous cultural celebration delivered in a beautifully artistic way.

Individuals self-identifying as women of the audience are invited in first to learn some simple movement and words for ‘woman’ ‘girl’ and ‘feminine’ in the language of their country. It is lighthearted and Randall eases the tension. There was a sense of hesitation initially, but it felt special to be part of the performance, and fostered a sense of community among us. lluminated by an evocative filmic backdrop by video artist Keith Deverell, Baird and Telfer performed traditional and contemporary dance whilst speaking native tongues and English. The choreography is dynamic and looked fantastic with the projection. The use of coloured chalk on their clothes that they swept up and banged in the floor work was stunning. The extension, energy and execution of the movement was breathtaking, and this wonderful intensity was sustained for so long.

The conversational nature of the dialogue draws us in and is at points authentically funny, making the performance enjoyable on so many levels. I was impressed by the stamina of the performers; twisting and rolling into and out of the floor, covered in vibrant colourful chalk, connecting with each other and the audience the whole way through. Randall is a genuine creative star and should be highly commended for bringing this work together. Deverell’s sound design fits well with the projection and movement and allows the spoken word to be heard and the movement to pick up and become complex and thrilling. The space was used well and performers captured from the light from the four follow spots on the corners. The stage is left covered in vibrant colour from the chalk on the performers’ bodies, with the shapes from the tape they pulled up stencilled in the tarquet, and we the audience sit in silence as we soak up and share the clever cultural creation we just experienced.

This show, structured around Aboriginal spiritual and traditional cultures of Women’s Business created and performed by indigenous women, is one that gives us so much inspiration and excitement. Divercity shows us, no matter where we are from, where we are now, what gender we identify with or what our heritage and language is, we all have bodies which can be beautiful vessels for communication and expression.  I loved every part of it- the celebration of community and how movement brings people together: the playful nature and the synchronisity of the projection and language and being made part of the performance. If you got a ticket before it sold out, you too enjoyed a real treat.

Divercity played in March 2017 as part of Dance Massive at North Melbourne Town Hall.

Image by Keith Deverell

Dance Massive Presents DEEP SEA DANCES

Eclectic exploration

By Joana Simmons

For ten days in March, Dance Massive brings us a program of all things dance, from the athletic to the obscure. Presented by Arts House, Dancehouse and Malthouse Theatre in association with Ausdance Victoria, the curated and commissioned program features local and international artists who have created works to engage and connect with. Through the international medium that is movement to music, across this program we are given a chance to rediscover our belief in the joyous and the extraordinary privilege of feeling alive. Rebecca Jensen’s Deep Sea Dances takes us to the depths of the sea, exploring the ecosystems that unfold as a dead whale sinks to the depths. Set to a live soundtrack and silence, the large cast come together to prioritize transition and transformation.

Deep Sea Dances.jpg 

Beginning with a work that recreated the rolling waves set to the breath of the ensemble, we the audience found ourselves sitting at the edges of the warehouse dive deep. The use of cannon and release of the head gave the real water lapping at your ankles’ feeling. From there, however, I was lost. I’m unsure whether, excuse the pun, I was out of my depth, but for the next 45 minutes the same movements were repeated over and over again to minimal music.  It felt like a self-indulgent and exhaustive way to prove a point. I appreciated how the performers mixed up their placement onstage, and the timing; but the movement itself was so loosely executed and frequently repeated I was unsure whether I was at a professional or student production. The costume was unflattering and sneakers were worn by all which cut off leg lines and led to some quite clunky movement. When the pace picked up, there were some good moments, however as a whole the use of repetition, lack of any extension or definitive lines or any facial expression made me, and the woman opposite me who had nodded off, feel completely excluded.

Still, credit must be given to the production in some regards as some bold choices have been made. Rebecca Jensen and Marco Cher-Gibard’s sound design is a big feature with some of the music being played live on a synth machine and keyboard by Jensen herself. It is also very exciting the way the roller door of the warehouse is bought up and the light from the street spills into the space as the dancers emerge, this time wet and clad in some slick-like fabric. They walked with pace and direction from one side to the other; which was engaging at first, but again went on for an exaggerated amount of time. Matthew Adey’s production design was simple and effective. The yellow tarquet made plenty of squeaks and music to the dancers’ sneakers, and the use of the industrial fan at the end was memorable….maybe because it was the end.

We live in a world where there is an oversaturation of media, art, film, video and theatre. Apparently we are time-poor and “connected” but also disconnected. I found this performance difficult to connect with at all based on how there was no eye contact with the audience or facial expression, and while I could understand the movement, I couldn’t understand the way it was going on for so long. If this was an experimental first performance for students, then those things are excusable. If this is trying to prove a point by challenging us to understand something deeper than what is being delivered, then great; I’m sure there are people who are out there who love having the splash of cold water on the face that is confronting theatre. However, considering the tickets are above $30, I would at least like to be able to trust that my time and money would be well-spent with attending a performance that left me feeling something other than confused and frustrated. Nevertheless, movers and shakers have to move and shake around all sorts of mediums to spark change. This is a show that has plenty of moving and shaking and, judging from the fact the performance I saw was sold out, there is a market of people who are going to appreciate it.

Deep Sea Dances was performed as part of Dance Massive in March 2017.

Image by Eliza Dyball

Dance Massive Presents TINY SLOPES

Brave and brilliant

By Joana Simmons

Sometimes as we get older, we challenge ourselves less. We don’t always push ourselves to fail and fall. In Tiny Slopes for Dance Massive, director/choreographer Nat Cursio has pushed the cast of dancers to learn to skateboard, and learn about risk, failure, humility and little wins along the way. Set along to an eclectic soundtrack, this impressive and artistic work is a joy from beginning to end. One of Melbourne’s wonderfully-kept historical venues, The Meat Market, tucked just north of the CBD  is a perfect host to this production that has a range of well-thought-out theatrical elements that really spin my wheels.

Tiny Slopes.jpg

We enter the Meat Market and sit looking at an almost-tennis-court-sized tarquet set with four skateboards. One of the dancers balances, jumps and manouvers cautiously around the board as the other three speak about things that they use to do when they were little, like jump off the roof of the shed and ride a tricycle down the windshield of Dad’s car. The snippets of memories are honest, dry and witty about the things they are scared of, what they don’t know about and what they can do. I loved how cleverly these anecdotes were woven through: though there’s no real storyline, they keep the work interesting, truthful and accessible.

Meanwhile, the depth of the stage is as impressive as how the dancers cover it. They use the skateboards as mechanisms for movement, with smooth natural floorwork and rolls; effortlessly skilled and meticulously choreographed.  The skateboards have microphones to capture their clunks and the sound of the wheels spinning, and this is enhanced and reverberated to make a fully stirring experience.  Young teenage girls who can skateboard with much dexterity skim the floor and play the roles of mentors, or past selves, to the four main dancers. The full house applauded as they tackled the ramps and mini half-pipe.

There’s many highlights and wonderful things to learn and take away from this show. Cursio made it from her ongoing interest in vulnerability and resilience, two virtues that are widely explored in this work. It is exciting and empowering to see a group of strong girls form a gang and put a beautiful story onstage. It’s got the athleticism and production of Cirque Du Solei with the artistic quality of a documentary seasoned with a little comedy. I want to commend the cast (Alice Dixon, Melissa Jones, Caroline Meaden, Francesca Meale, Rae Franco, Amelie Mansfield, Pyper Prosen, Pixel Willison-Allen) for their completely honest and genuine performance. It was really refreshing to see movement and performance that wasn’t flashy or self-indulgent: quite simply, it was artistic and accessible.

Travis Hogan’s comprehensive lighting combined with sound by Byron Scullin and ‘everyday awesome’ costumes by Sarah Hall gives this show a sweet aestheic and aural edge. Tamara Salwick as the text/ voice consultant has tastefully put together elements of the show that bring Cursio’s direction and choreography to life.

With no “ta da” ending, it is the choreographic unison and connection between the performers made this a satisfying show. It makes me feel like I too can take up something I’m afraid of, like skateboarding. It’s a privilege to enjoy performances of this nature. If you have never seen contemporary dance and are worried it’s wishy washy writhing in nude leotards, this is a spectacle that defies all of that and exceeds expectations. It’s an absolute delight.

Tiny Slopes played as part of Dance Massive in March 2017.

Image by Gregory Lorenzutti

REVIEW: Chunky Move Presents AORTA

In the heat of a heartbeat

By Myron My

I’m always looking forward to award-winning choreographer Stephanie Lake’s next work. Having seen A Conversation Piece at Dance Massive in which she performed, and then her creation A Small Prometheus during Melbourne Festival this year, where both works pushed the limits of what dance can be in unexpected directions, I was expecting something big with the world premiere of Lake’s new piece: Aorta.

Chunky Move AORTA photo Jeff Busby

Instead, Lake has stripped Aorta back to basics. She uses three dancers (James Batchelor, James Pham and Josh Mu) to share her thoughts on how our interiors perform on the surface. Lake explores the notion of how blood moves and circulates throughout our systems and opens out into themes of mortality, growth and decay.

As with any work commissioned by Chunky Move, the performers themselves are of a high caliber. Batchelor, Pham, and in particular Mu remain highly committed and execute some intricate and impressive moves. They work extremely well together when remaining dynamically in sync with each other, but then also excel when performing solo parts. Pham’s segment towards the finale was a firm highlight of Aorta.

Keeping in line with this minimalist approach, the costuming by Shio Otani has the dancers wearing costume pieces constructed of thick rope, providing the imagery of veins running through the body. The sound composition and lighting by Robin Fox is also effective, with the sounds heard being reminiscent of hearts beating, blood pumping and life itself.

Despite all these elements coming together so well, I did leave feeling comparatively unfulfilled with Aorta. Perhaps it was because of my previous encounters of Lake’s work where so many aspects of the production are used to capacity to create strong emotional environments and moods. It’s still an interesting and unique piece but not something that I will remember as strongly as her others.

Venue: Chunky Move Studios, 111 Sturt St, Southbank

Season: Until 30 November | 7:30pm, Sat 2:00pm

Tickets: $30 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings: http://www.chunkymove.com.au

REVIEW: Lee Serle’s P.O.V.

Experience the dance like never before

By Myron My

Commissioned by Lucy Guerin for contemporary dance festival Dance Massive and choreographed by Lee Serle, P.O.V. is a unique dance piece that looks at proximity, reactions and interactions with audiences as participants rather than just mere observers.

Being fortunate enough to grab one of the 36 swivel stools on the stage, I was thrust into this bold experience. The four dancers – Serle, James Andrews, Kristy Ayre and Lily Paska – appear and begin dancing in unison through the grid-like formation, gradually breaking off, going down various paths, like balls in a pinball machine.


It’s very much an up-close-and-personal-feeling as an audience member, seeing the heavy breathing and the sweat dripping off their brow. These guys are definitely giving all they’ve got – and it works.

We are initially ignored and you can’t help but feel like an intruder. Eventually we are acknowledged and then warmed to and then we interact with the dancers in extremely unique and personal ways. P.O.V. is about blurring the line between audience member and participant: looking at how we deal with each other and what we feel from that. As Serle himself explained in his notes, it is much like life and about taking the time to interact with one another.

I went through a range of emotions throughout P.O.V: laughter, warmth, intrigue and even loneliness when asked to wear a blindfold and to experience part of the show in that state.

Hearing movement and laughter and not being able to see it allowed me to go in a deeper place and explore those emotions for some time and it was quite a moving experience. Upon removal of the blindfold it was a surprise to see everything that had occurred in the space of those minutes to other participants: all safe, all fun, and all-willing.

P.O.V. is part dance and part theatre performance and was a great introduction to Dance Massive. Highly recommended show, but do get in early to grab one of the seats on stage, as it really does make the performance so much more unique.

Venue: Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry St

Season: Until 16 March | 8:30pm

Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc

Bookings:  www.dancemassive.com.au