Australian Dance Reviews

Australian Dance Theatre – Be Your Self

Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide
February 27th

By Deborah Searle.

Be Your Self is a display of the body’s form and function.  A raw and thought provoking work, Be Your Self investigates the body as a machine and discusses what makes us human? What is self?

The dancing is very isolated and exact, breaking movement down into each small twitch of muscle, tendon or bone. A section where the dancers move each individual body part to a sound score that sounds like creaking and breaking bones, is haunting, yet captivating. The audience is mesmerized as such simple movement is expressed in such an edgy way. There is nothing pretty about it, but Garry Stewart was obviously not trying to create a work that is pleasing to the eye, but one that is real and explorative.

Larissa McGowan, who is also the assistant choreographer for this work, is made for her role. She is so precise and so engaging. All the dancers are brilliant technicians and their unison is almost always exact. Troy Honeysett is a force to be reckoned with, commanding the stage with his acrobatic and martial arts inspired leaps and tumbles. He throws his body with abandon, yet precision.

At one stage the dancers all stand in a line and just breathe deeply, as we can see their chests expand and contract. It is such simple movement, yet we are all engrossed. There is something unique about what Garry has created with Be Your Self.

The work is quite sterile, without much emotion or expression by the dancers, as it deconstructs the body, movement, human moods and thoughts. At times the dancers scream, sending shivers down my spine, or they shake and stare. It is incredibly un-nerving. A section where the dancers display different moods, such as happiness and sadness in their faces, is quite comical and interesting. However, this too feels sterile, which I think is the plan. The dancers do not pull at the heart strings of the audience, but what they present is definitely fascinating and different.

Photos Chris Herzfeld

Photos Chris Herzfeld

The costumes are simple, with the dancers in all white. For some of the time they wear white skirts that have exact replicas of their individual legs painted on them. These create interesting pictures as the dancers move their legs. The skirts are quite ingenious.

There is a long scene where the dancers place individual body parts, such as their arms, legs or upper back though a large white, material screen. Video projection creates swirls and images streaming from each body part. This scene takes the deconstruction of the body to another level. I feel that it lasts a little long, as there isn’t much dancing, just movement of individual body parts, but the video imagery is engaging.

One of the dancers, dressed in all white from head to toe, comes onto the stage as a manikin or mummy like figure, as dancer Kialea-Nadine Williams manipulates his body parts. I am not sure of the purpose of this character, except to ask the question of ‘are we just our bodies?’ The manikin ias expressionless and without any features and can only move if the dancers manipulate him. Later in the program one of the dancers draws a face on him and other dancers come on stage with masks on the backs of their heads, with their faces covered, creating the illusion of their heads being on back to front.

Be Your Self feels like it is part of a larger exploration for Garry Stewart, and that it might just be the beginning of something bigger. Although a little out of my comfort zone, I enjoyed the work and found the dancers to be incredibly talented. I look forward to seeing if this work evolves in the future.

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