Returning after a hiatus of three years due to the dreaded Covid pandemic, On Course is a choreographic project initiated by QL2 Dance to provide QL2 alumni undertaking full-time tertiary studies at universities around Australia, with the facilities necessary to create, in two weeks, an original short dance work for presentation in front of a paying audience.
Those facilities include dancers, rehearsal space and professional mentorship, with no restrictions as to topic or style. For the aspiring choreographers it offers a rare opportunity to try their creative wings in a supportive environment. For the audience, an opportunity to see what influences those choreographers have absorbed since leaving the creative hotbed of QL2 Dance.
Three choreographers, who were unable to return to Canberra, presented their works on film. Cassidy Thomson, a Quantum Leaper from 2016 to 2022, currently studying at VAC, explored notions of ‘ephemerality’ with her cleverly edited film, We Live This Very Ephemeral Life in which her own filmed movements were intercut with intriguing images.
Mia Canton and Leyla Boz also both studying dance at VCA, drew on film of themselves performing mostly unison movement in and around a bright yellow sculpture to produce a visually engaging work entitled Warped Reality.
A Quantum Leaper from 2016 – 2022, Magnus Meagher is currently studying Screen and Media at RMIT in Melbourne. Meagher took the opportunity to create, and introduce, a veritable love-letter to the Canberra of his childhood, with his diverting film, Run Point, for which he filmed dancers, Christopher Wade, Jahna Lugnan and Sam Tonna – all of whom performed in other works during the evening, dashing blissfully, Parkour-like, through various dreamy photogenic locations around Canberra.
The first of the live presentations, all of which were introduced in person by their choreographer, was introduced by one of the dancers featured in Run Point, Christopher Wade. Having just completed his Master of Dance at VCA, Wade joined dancers Liam Berg, Rory Warne, Maya Willie-Bellchambers and Julia Villaflor to perform his own work, The space Between, for which he drew on personal experience to create a fascinating exploration of various life styles utilising unison movement, unusual lifts and groupings.
Liam Berg also completed his MA in Dance at VCA, after training at Australian Ballet School and John Cranko Schule in Stuttgart. Berg drew on his interest in therapeutic movement to create a joyous, tongue-in-cheek duet, which he performed with Christopher Wade, to music by Dianna Ross and Boy Harsher, deftly transforming repetitive rhythmic movement and facial exercises into delightfully entertaining dance.
Perhaps the most ambitious work of the evening was created by Rory Warne, a graduate of Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-professional year (2021) and VAC (2023). Performed by Liam Berg, Jahna Lugnan, Julia Villaflor, Arshiya Abhishree, Maya Wille-Bellchambers and Sam Tonna to an original composition by Ethan Oppy, Held in Flesh explored a particularly dancerly topic – the body as an archive and vessel of potential – for which the dancers performed complicated self-absorbed groupings, sometimes resembling shop mannequins until finally, one-by-one, exiting the stage.
However it was a solo, Diary of a teenage 23 year old, performed by Ruby Ballantyne, a Quantum Leaper for 5 years who describes herself as a contemporary dancer, actor, painter, rug maker and starry-eyed dreamer, who completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts (Dance) at WAAPA in 2022, before participating in professional dance and performance workshops in Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam, and who will commence acting studies at NIDA in 2024, that was the most original offering of the evening.
Responding to a compelling pre-recorded stream-of-consciousness voice-over recording of her own voice, Ballantyne performed a mesmerising, virtuosic mime-show exposing her insecurities about aging, angsting over missing out on new life-experiences by spending too much time cherishing past experiences, until, finally collapsing in a panic attack.
With Diary of a teenage 23 year old, Ballantyne has created a remarkable showcase for her toolbox of unique acting and dancing skills which should hold her in good stead for a successful career as a performing artist.
Following a series of well-staged bows, the choreographers and dancers joined the audience for a Q & A about their creations and process.
QL2 Theatre – Gorman Arts Centre, 55 Ainslie Avenue, Braddon
Performance: Saturday 16 December 2023
Image: Ruby Ballantyne – photo by O&J Wikner Photography
Review: Bill Stephens OAM