Australian Dance Reviews

On The Rocks – Vertical Shadows

Chapel Off Chapel
May 9 2012

By Paul Ransom.

As one of the new breed of young choreographers currently muscling their way onto the Australian dance landscape, Melbourne based Stephen Agisilaou has the daring and sheer entrepreneurial spirit to make it happen. His company, Vertical Shadows, is electric with youthful energy and their latest showcase is a celebration of their smash-together aesthetic, bringing contemporary, urban, Weimar cabaret and narrative grit into the same space.

At times sexual, often sensual, but always energetic, On The Rocks is brimming with creative vigour.

Having said that, we should concede that heavily narrative works can easily overcook themselves and On The Rocks does have moments where it looks a little overwrought. This tale of a recently separated woman finding herself in an eerily Lynch-like bar struggling with melancholy, moving on, and the temptations of alcohol, could have been more subtle, perhaps more visceral, in my opinion.

Vertical Shadows Dance Company, On The Rocks

Photos by Matthew Denton, MDMedia

However, it could scarcely have been more enthusiastically rendered. Agisilaou has coaxed very committed performances from his cast, most notably from the sole female, Jessica Mortlock. The key trick here is the shrewd avoidance of simple, clichéd male/female juxtaposition and the development of character.

If Rocks itself could do with a little more ‘raw’, then the show’s opening vignette, the gorgeous pas de deux Crimson, is just about spot on. More obviously balletic, this is eight minutes of entrancing ‘avian’ courtship. (And beautifully lit birds they are too).

Overall, Vertical Shadows’ latest production ups the ante for Agisilaou. There is a growing confidence here, a willingness to stretch out and yet remain true to an individual vision. If this guy isn’t already on your dance radar, he should be.

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