Terra Firma

QL2-Terra-Firma-Metal-ParkQL2 Dance varies from other dance companies in that its works are always created around social issues of concern to its young participants. The dancers are encouraged to study the issues and contribute ideas on how their thoughts can be expressed in dance terms.

Professional choreographers work with the dancers to translate these ideas into cohesive ensemble dance works, thereby giving the young dancers invaluable insights into the process of dance creation.

This process has been nurtured by Artistic Director, Ruth Osborne, who for the last 23 years has surrounded her dancers with professional choreographers, designers and composers to bring those ideas to fruition.

The concept for this year’s presentation is Terra Firma – a triple bill of three separate dance works examining concepts of solid ground in an ever-changing world.

The works were created under particularly difficult conditions as a result of the Covid pandemic, with dancers having to rehearse in masks, and in some cases via Zoom. None of which is evident in the three powerful works which make up the program, which were danced with extraordinary commitment and precision by the 25 dancers involved.

Melanie Lane explored materialism through the relationship between body, objects and our built environment with her work Metal Park. It commenced with the dancers grouped in a striking, dimly lit tableau. As the tableau unfolded four large black objects emerged which were revealed as black garbage suggesting waste.

Working to an atmospheric score by Christopher Clark which featured repeated harsh metallic sounds, the busy dancers, costumed in shades of grey, white and black, moved between mechanical unison movement, groupings in which they strained against each other and acrobatic tableau’s, various household items and long rods to create a powerfully conceived and performed evocation of modern society.

Cadi McCarthy, with her work, Shifting Ground which was performed to a dramatic soundscape composed by Zackari Watt, called on her dancers to explore the shifting environmental, political, social and emotional terrains in which they exist.

For this work, which included four visiting dancers from McCarthy’s own Newcastle youth dance ensemble, Flipside, McCarthy employed a fascinating movement repertoire which required the dancers, costumed in attractive rust and black costumes, to break into two groups to perform complex unison movement to protect their domains, before appearing to reject overtures of intimacy and finally ending with a prostrate figure alone on the stage.

The third work Tides of Time by husband and wife choreographers, Stephen and Lilah Gow, explored notions of time, questioning ideas of present, past and future. Working to Adam Ventoura’s compelling soundscape, the work commenced with a stunning filmed sequence by Wildbear Digital in which the dancers seemed to float through blackness until revealed on stage in striking crimson costumes where they competed for the use of an imaginary mirror.

As the work progressed the black background was replaced by beautiful watery images through which the dancers appeared to float. Tides of Time is a beautifully choreographed, visually striking work which proved the perfect finale for a memorable evening of challenging, superbly performed new works. For which Cate Clelland’s excellent costumes and Mark Dyson’s dramatic lighting were outstanding contributions.

The icing on the cake was a triumphant series of cleverly choreographed bows, the work of Artistic Director, Ruth Osborne, which paid homage to each of the works by repeating a snippet from each work performed from the various casts who performed them.

With every aspect superbly produced and performed Terra Firma is an outstanding superb example of why QL2 Dance is so admired as the nation’s leading youth dance organisation.

Terra Firma
Playhouse – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, Canberra
Performance: Thursday 26 May 2022
Season: 26 – 28 May 2022
Information: www.ql2.org.au

Image: Metal Park – photo by Lorna Sim

Review: Bill Stephens OAM