Australian Dance Reviews

Exhibit – The Misconception of Dance

The Space Dance and Arts Centre full time students
The Space, Chapel Street, Melbourne
25th September

By Rebecca Martin

Presented by The Space full time dance school and led by student Jayden Hicks, the dancers themselves created, fundraised, publicised, produced and staged Exhibit – The Misconception of Dance.  Comprised of eight vignettes, the piece explores the misconceptions of dancers and delves beneath the surface of the industry to reveal that there is more to dancers than high kicks and lavish costumes. 

I enter the studios of The Space after emerging from a sea of disgruntled AFL grand final attendees, and I am comforted by the dark stillness of the space which is punctuated by candlelight and motionless dancers positioned like wax statues throughout the venue.  I make my way up the stairs and adjust to the change of culture (from bogans to ballet) and take my seat in front of a dancer in a black hooded coat upon a dais moving slowly as smoke swirls around her.  

The piece begins with little fanfare, but the audience is instantly enthralled as two dancers throw themselves around the stage and on the floor with great intensity to pounding electronic music.  I lean forward in my seat a little as the cloaked figure joins in the dance with mysterious and angular movements.  Next we see a ballerina in white perform classical steps while four others move around the stage in flesh leotards emblazoned with question marks and statements such as “who are we?”.  Despite the very classical appearance of the dancers, they move seductively and suggest that we should not judge a book by its cover.

The thumping sounds of a modern track by Rihanna bring to the stage dancers in black bondage style gear with masks that imply secrets and hidden identities.  By now I am really on the edge of my seat.  A queen figure, dressed elaborately as if straight out of a Tim Burton film, reveals her kinky and crazy side while the leather clad dancers swirl around her. 

Sia’s haunting track Breathe Me brings us a heartbreaking solo that confronts the audience with the ugly side of a dance career – fighting demons, addictions, doubt, and self criticism.  The solo dancer is joined by two dark figures that she initially fights before accepting that all dancers must live with their demons. She dances in harmony with them before being overcome and disappearing from sight.

She later returns to the stage blindfolded where the ballerina in white removes the cigarette from her fingers and blindfold from her eyes, reminding her of why she dances and how easy it is to lose sight of what it is that we want and or of who we are. 

Jayden Hicks takes to the stage to tackle the question of sexuality that comes with the territory of being a male dancer. Hicks is an accomplished dancer with excellent classical technique which is apparent in his fluid movements and elegant extensions. 

The subject of eating disorders is approached with the dramatic use of blood stained finger tips and black shadows following the dancers’ every move.  This section shows the audience the anguish of every dancer as they are confronted with the temptation of food and alcohol and must decide what they want more – to give into temptation or fight on and succeed in the industry. 

The final section of the piece sees the unveiling of the cloaked figure and with all the dancers on stage wearing white ballet outfits and moving as one with freedom and joy.  Mirrors on the side of the stage are swung around so that the audience is staring at themselves while the dancers leap and turn in front of the mirror. We come to realise that the people before us, are us and only the strong can survive in the dance industry.  The piece begs the audience to applaud dancers, not deride them.

Exhibit is a piece that not only showcases the talents of The Space full time dancers, but also the burgeoning talents of creator, producer and performer Jayden Hicks. It is an intelligent and visually impressive work that breaks down the barriers between dancer and audience, and destroys stereotypes while opening the mind.  The dancers are fierce and competent, and they show their versatility through the fusion of styles presented in the choreography.

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