The final event in QL2’s 2017 program, On Course 2017 provided, as it has done for the last 10 years, young dance-makers involved in full time university dance studies, the opportunity to flex their choreographic muscles and create an eight-minute dance work of their choice.
Originally conceived as an opportunity for QL2 alumni, On Course now attracts young choreographers and dancers from all over the country. This year, works by artists from Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), Victorian College of the Arts (VCA), Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and University of NSW (UNSW) were presented.
Five of these were QL2 alumni, others had participated in previous years, while some were having their first experience – unusually five of the nine choreographers were male.
Each participant was provided with dancers, mentoring and rehearsal space for six, three-hour rehearsals over a three-week period in which to create works bristling with ideas and originality. Some took the opportunity to question the validity of dance and choreography, while others were inspired by nature and animals.
Gabriel Sinclair created an amusing, light-hearted work on six dancers. Just Dance Already commenced with his dancers arguing over choreographic ideas. Just as they reached exhaustion, they were revived by sounds of disco music. Their sheer joy in dance provided the work with a beautifully resolved climax.
Nasim Patel bought a completely different approach to his questioning with his solo work A lecture?: questioning importance. Working to Claudio Arrau’s sublime rendition of Debussy’s Clair de Lune, and armed with a whiteboard and pen, Patel delivered a discourse linking the death of Harambe the gorilla with the arrival of the first man on the moon. His clever use of contrasting vocal rhythms, provided a riveting prelude to his short dance solo.
Maddy Towler Lovell also used humour to explore questions of the accessibility of modern dance in her work, Literally abstract, in which Ruby Ballantyne, clad in dungarees and a hat, delivered a very funny David Attenborough-ish description of two dancers executing graceful birdlike movements.
Alexandra Dobson created an impressive work called Eusociality for which her eight dancers entered the stage on all four, monkey-like, in a beam of light. Working to a heavy metal soundtrack, they then performed Dobson’s strong swooping choreography with impressive commitment and polish.
Thalia Livingstone’s playful work was entitled Leisure Slug for which she encased her four dancers in transparent plastic sheeting to create a series of striking images. Jason Pearce also chose the theme of change for his impressive work B – in which, mid-way through, his three dancers emerged from plastic boiler suits to reveal colourful costumes as they responded to voiceover commands ranging from frenetic to cool.
Alex Abbot drew on his rhythmic and hip-hop background to create an absorbing work on eight dancers entitled Fly by the Seat of My Pants. His slow, graceful unison movements were beautifully performed by the dancers, to create a lovely work of impressive visual appeal.
In a similarly ambitious work, The Parting Glass, Mara Glass demonstrated her impressive skills as dance-maker, to create a spectacular work on eleven dancers to explore ideas of communication and departure. Clever use of robotic movements, graceful floor work, striking duo work and well resolved group movement resulted in a work which was both appealing and satisfying.
Though his title succinctly describes his passionate solo work, Patrick talks at you, then lip-syncs, then you go on with your lives, Patrick Keogh Walker seemed trapped by his striking long white wedding dress costume with its slowly unfurling train, and his soundtrack of John Farnham’s You’re The Voice. Confined to some bare-footed Irish jig steps and repetitive arm gestures, the work felt unresolved as to its purpose and intent.
Excellent stage management and lighting insured the 90 minute program flowed, with each of the works thoughtfully costumed, and exceptionally well danced. As one audience member observed at the Q&A afterwards, “This is the best On Course I can remember.” I wouldn’t argue with that!
On Course 2017
QL2 Theatre – Gorman Arts Centre, Ainslie Avenue, Braddon (Canberra)
Performances: 16 & 17 December 2017
Image: Fly By The Seat of My Pants (supplied)
Review: Bill Stephens OAM