Australian Dance Party Nervous - photo by Lorna SimThe selection of the romantic burnt-out Dome at Mt. Stromlo Observatory, with its magnificent valley views enhanced by a spectacular sunset, was an inspired choice by dance-maker, Alison Plevey and her Australian Dance Party in which to present her latest site-specific work, Nervous.

Seated in two rows around the inside perimeter walls of the roofless dome, the audience is able to experience the twilight transition from sunset to starlight as the performance progressed. Two imposing concrete structures which once supported giant telescopes provide a striking sculptural setting for the performance which began gently with the four dancers, all costumed in identical stylish white slacks and singlets, with a nude string mesh overshirts, pacing in different directions around the central performance area.

Occasionally they confront each other with long gazes. As the pace quickens the performers begin moving backwards, sometimes circling each other and at other times colliding. In this setting it is easy to imagine that they represent the universe. Eventually they all collapse to the floor, heralding the beginning of a beautifully constructed adagio in which the four dancers move in perfect unison.

An entertaining interlude which commenced with Janine Proost desperately self-censoring herself as she attempts to make a statement, brilliantly illustrated the disabling effects of extreme nervousness.

In her program notes Plevey states “Nervous is about the human state and today’s volatile world …. An interrogation of what makes us nervous.” How she explores this proposition in abstract dance terms makes for a stunning work which is often as puzzling as it is fascinating to watch.

Superbly performed by Alison Plevey, Gabriel Comerford, Olivia Fyfe and Janine Proost, Nervous incorporates a remarkable electronic soundscape by Ben Worth, which sets the mood for the various sections. Sometimes it’s gentle and lyrical, at others the bass is so loud it can actually be felt vibrating through the body.

Spectacular laser lighting and projection by Robbie Gordon effectively highlights the drama of the surroundings, but occasionally leaves the dancers in the dark, most notably for the final tableau. However, with the originality of its concept, the uniqueness of its setting, and the excellence of its execution, with Nervous, Australian Dance Party confirms its promise of becoming an important new vehicle for contemporary dance in the A.C.T.

Yale Columbia Dome, Mt. Stromlo Observatory, Canberra
Season: 1 – 3 December 2016

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Image: Australian Dance Party’s Nervous – photo by Lorna Sim

Review: Bill Stephens