Australian Dance Reviews

DirtyFeet’s double bill is exciting and inspiring

DirtyFeet dancers Cody Lavery, Jasmin Lancaster and Brianna Kell. Photo by Kate Disher-Quill.
DirtyFeet dancers Cody Lavery, Jasmin Lancaster and Brianna Kell. Photo by Kate Disher-Quill.

Shopfront Theatre, Carlton, Sydney.
22 September 2018.

This was a most exciting challenging double bill of new works in development from the excellent Dirty Feet, who is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

First up was Full Circle, choreographed by Lucky Lartey.

In the beginning was the word…

This work seeks to explore the historical significance of African oral traditions and storytelling using contemporary dance. It also looks at finding one’s voice as an artist and how does one express cultural identity in contemporary Australia, using hip hop and African oral traditions as a base.

As we enter, the three performers (Rachel Dade, Cassandra Merwood and Kassidy Waters) are already on stage. They wear white light, loose-fitting clothes, each slightly different in the cut of the skirt or loose flowing trousers. They are busy plaiting and tying together what becomes a multi-coloured long rope tie. They approach the audience, and one member temporarily is linked to the performers by the tying of the rope around their hands.

The lighting throughout was sensational. This work was mainly very effectively and dramatically side lit with exciting use of shadows. The soundscape includes not only the spoken word (a creation myth and repeated phrases of words) but also insistent drum beats, for example. 

DirtyFeet dancer Kassidy Waters. Photo by Kate Disher-Quill.

DirtyFeet dancer Kassidy Waters. Photo by Kate Disher-Quill.

Larkey’s strong choreography was given a powerful, committed and intense performance by the trio of  dancers. Toward the start of the work, it is as if they are testing the floor uncertainly with their feet. There was undulating, sculptural unison work. Some of the choreography was stylized and used repeated phrases of movement; others required long, fluid, extended arms. Larkey’s work demanded a very fluid and flexible back. In one section, the dancers knelt and were “sweeping” in a circle; at another point, it is as if they were brushing the floor with their long hair. Yet another snippet saw the trio seated on the floor and “paddling a boat”. For one segment, the cast’s hands – the only things moving –  become itchy spiders. Shadow boxing and martial arts poses are included, as well as some rolling floorwork, making “snow angels” lying on the floor and sort of musical chairs using plastic milk crates. The acrobatic/gymnastic “bridge” pose is used. Low, rather heavy footed, jumps are used at one point, and another section references traditional Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander dance. The work also examines the purpose of life and the keeping of cultural thoughts and memories. In the word is power…

The second work was Sara Black’s Double Beat, celebrating “the human body, reflection and connection to life and energy”. Performed by Brianna Kell, Jasmin Lancaster and Cody Lavery, it is all about breath, pulse and heartbeat. The work was inspired by Black’s ultrasound scan of her baby. Like Full Circle, Double Beat also opens with the dancers on stage, in loose comfortable clothing, as the audience reenters after interval. The soundtrack includes a baby’s cry and gurgles, rain, pulsating drumbeats, a heartbeat and voiceovers. It is at times pounding and relentless.

Black’s choreography includes twitchy, quivery, shaky sections, frenetic solos and a tender intimate duet. Sometimes, the dancers are standing close together but rather than dance in unison have their own fragments of repeated phrases of choreography. There are pulsating, sculptural moments with the three in unison, sliding rolls, a whirling, circular segment like a washing machine and very demanding fleeting lyrical floorwork. Some of the choreography is machine-like. A repeated use is made of checking the neck or wrist pulse. There is an intimate, intense yet also clinical atmosphere throughout.

This was a most thought-provoking and inspiring double bill.

By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.

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