The Cast of AWKWARD courtesy of Catapult Dance Choreographic HubThis performance of Awkward was presented in The B in the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, as the final stop in a regional tour taking in communities including Candelo, Tathra and Bermagui.

Although only a single performance it provided an opportunity to experience the work of the Newcastle-based Catapult Dance Choreographic Hub, which was established by Cadi McCarthy in 2014 to provide opportunities for mid-career and emerging choreographers, professional dancers and multi-disciplinary artists.

McCarthy has strong connections with the ACT Dance community, having established her own ACT dance company, Cadi McCarthy & Company, in 2002. For this company she created six full length works earning her Canberra Critics Circle Awards in 2004 and 2006. She has also created works for QL2 dance, most recently in 2022, when she choreographed Shifting Ground for QL2’s mainstage production Terra Firma.

Her production of Awkward, which she choreographed and directed, is centred around the premise of offering advice on dance party etiquette to the socially awkward. It’s a promising idea which allows her an entertaining showcase with which to demonstrate all the disciplines for which Catapult Dance Choreographic Hub was established.

The touring set is fairly minimal and arranged over two levels. A lounge suite occupies the stage, while two drink bars along with an assortment of smaller properties are arranged on floor level, providing plenty of room for the dancers. The seven dancers wear costumes that suggest contemporary party wear, and the music is provided by a sound system which the dancers are able manipulate at various points.

The work commences with the busy hostess cheerfully setting up the accoutrements for a successful party. One by one the guests arrive, each with a contribution, and all clearly and amusingly uncomfortable in the other’s presence. The hostess announces that she has the recipe to overcome this awkwardness, and her advice, often hilarious, is demonstrated by the dancers as she delivers it.

McCarthy’s choreography is witty, inventive, very physical, and often acrobatic. She uses the onstage furniture as an integral component of her choreography, requiring the dancers to dance on, around, over and under it. In one uproarious episode she has the hostess attempt to teach a male dancer some seriously silly disco moves.

Later the mood darkens when a section on alcohol use erupts into a fight between two male dancers who engage in acrobatic fisticuffs before dissolving into a haunting solo by one of them. Unfortunately the lack of programs made it impossible to identify individual dancers, which was a pity, because all were accomplished, and each shone in segments built around their particular strengths.

But as entertaining and accessible as this work is, at nearly 90 minutes, it would benefit from some trimming and tightening to eliminate obvious choreographic repetition, and a less shadowy lighting plot which often masked the work of dancers working around the periphery of the stage area.

The B – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre, 253 Crawford Street, Queanbeyan
Performance: Wednesday 27 March 2024

Image: The Cast of AWKWARD – courtesy of Catapult Dance Choreographic Hub

Review: Bill Stephens OAM