LESS consists of 36 sky-high concrete columns which pay tribute to Canberra’s brutalist architectural roots and which are accessed by a sweeping ramp leading up to a viewing platform. Below is a series of shallow pools and 6000 individual plants to encourage visitors to explore, pause and reflect.
This imposing structure provided the perfect environment and an irresistible challenge to the imagination of Australian Dance Party leader, Alison Plevey to conceive a work for her company which would explore and expose some of the infinite possibilities offered by LESS.
Plevey’s work, also aptly entitled LESS was first performed early on a warm, overcast Canberra evening, just as the light was beginning to fade. The more adventurous in the audience chose to watch from chairs arranged in shallow water. Some were barefoot to add an additional sensory experience, while others, thoughtfully pre-warned, chose gumboots or other protective footwear.
The less adventurous watched on from the sweeping ramp as the haunting sound of a lone saxophone heralded the entrance of the dancers attractively costumed by Aislinn King in sculptural white and grey costumes.
The dancers processed slowly through a pool behind the seated audience before making their way into full view in the second pool. As they entered the second pool their movements became larger and more athletic as they began to cavort playfully in the water.
Another sound element was introduced, this time vocalist, Liam Budge, performing atmospheric sounds into a microphone. Both musicians, saxophonist John Mackay and vocalist, Budge, were costumed similarly to the dancers and merged seamlessly among them.
Eventually Budge’s sounds became more guttural and the movements of the dancers more animalistic and primitive suggesting the timelessness of the structure.
As the natural light faded and the Ove McLeod’s magical lighting flooded the sculpture the dancers moved into the upper area of columns among which they climbed, balanced between, crept among the columns to perform terrifying lifts and create living sculptures with which to tease the imaginations of their audience.
LESS will eventually weather and fulfil its function as a place to encourage personal contemplation stimulated by the sounds of running water and wind blowing through its columns.
But for the present, while its many columns might provide a challenge for performance this monolithic structure will tantalise the imaginations of creative people, just as it has done for Alison Plevey and her Australian Dance Party, who with LESS have created their own memorable site specific work in celebration of its existence.
LESS Pavilion, Diary Road Precinct, Fyshwick (Canberra)
Performance: Friday 4 March 2022
Season continues to 12 March 2022
Image: LESS – photo by Lorna Sim
Review: Bill Stephens OAM