QL2-Dance-COMMUNICATE-Echo-Chamber-photo-by-Lorna-SimQuantum Leap’s annual Playhouse season is its major presentation for the year. For this presentation QL2 commissions professional choreographers, composers and creatives to work with its young dancers to create works based on a theme chosen by its Artistic Director, Ruth Osborne. This year that theme was communication.

QL2 Dance has widened its reach over the years inviting young dancers and choreographers from beyond the Canberra region, and even internationally, to participate in these annual presentations.

This year, celebrating a 20 year relationship with QL2, a large contingent of dancers from the Bangkok Dance Academy in Thailand travelled to Canberra to participate, bringing with them a dance work choreographed by it Artistic Director.

Communicate commenced with a work by West Australian choreographer now working with Dance North, Alice Lee Holland, which set the tone and style for the evening. Created in collaboration with the dancers, as were all the works in the program, Holding Space featured moodily-lit group work punctuated by breakout solos built on the particular talents of individual dancers. Particularly interesting features of this work were the staccato movement for the dancers and the sung vocalisations incorporated as a means of communication.

Tightly choreographed group movement and breakout solos were also features of Echo Chamber created by Kyall Shanks, who’s currently working with Tasdance as well as Artistic Director of the professional youth dance company, Yellow Wheel.

Shanks made interesting use of quick blackouts to create tableaus reminiscent of a bygone living statues technique, revealing the dancers in different combinations each time the lights come up. The work demanded and received an admirably disciplined performance by dancers.

The final work, Shared Language, was presented in three sections commencing with the most intriguing work of the evening, Organised Chaos, choreographed by the Creative Director of the Bangkok Dance Academy, Lordfai Navinda Phachimsawa, and performed by the eight members of Bangkok Dance Academy.

To a soundscape composed by Kevin Inthawong which commenced surprisingly with excerpts from two familiar Strauss waltzes, Blue Danube and Wiener Blut, the eight dancers, individually costumed in bright coloured, layered costumes, performed movements which worked against the beat of the music.

As the music changed tone and mood, the dancers shed their outer layers revealing earth-coloured shorts and tops to perform a series of tightly choreographed unison movements which required fastidious communal communication between the performers, thereby respecting the theme of the program.

The second section of Shared Language was choreographed by QL2 Dance Artistic director, Ruth Osborne, with the assistance of Steve Gow, echoed the style set by the first two works to focus on how electronic screens and telephones have affected our communication methods.

As the work transitioned into its final section, the ensemble was joined by the BDA dancers for a joyful celebration of the value of dance as a shared language for creating deeper understanding of each other’s similarities and differences.

The performance ended with what has become QL2’s signature Osborne finale for which the dancers seamlessly morph together with other members of the works in which they have performed to execute a few movements from that work then take a group bow.

All the works were particularly well performed by the dancers whose ages ranged from 13 to 23. Other than for Organised Chaos, for which the BDA provided their own music and costumes, all the other works were enhanced by Cate Clelland’s tasteful, relaxed-cut costumes; the moody, inventive soundscapes by Adam Ventoura; Antony Hateley’s superbly focussed lighting and wonderfully evocative images by Wildbear Digital.

Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, London Circuit, Canberra
Performance: Friday 19 may 2023
Season: 18 – 20 May 2023
Information: www.ql2.org.au

Image: Echo Chamber – photo by Lorna Sim

Review: Bill Stephens OAM