Australian Dance Reviews

Dancenorth takes risks in ‘DUST’

Dancenorth's 'DUST'. Photo courtesy of Dancenorth.
Dancenorth's 'DUST'. Photo courtesy of Dancenorth.

Carriageworks, Sydney.  
9 January 2019

From using Fitballs on a Northern Queensland beach (Tectonic), to exploring environmental and political issues through dance, Kyle Page, along with his partner and joint Artistic Director Amber Haines, do not shy away from risk, preferring rather to embrace it.

They continue to break new ground, stretching the physical limits of their dancers whilst highlighting the ethical and existential dilemmas that affect us all.

Their new work, DUSTwas originally presented at QPAC as part of Brisbane Festival 2018. The work is an investigation into the variety of inheritance that we have each accumulated on a personal, social and political level. It is also a call to the audience, “to re-imagine and recreate what has been handed to us and what in turn we hand on to others – our children.”

The motivation for creating DUST came from Page and Haines’s concern about their son, Jasper, and the kind of future he would grow into.

The audience is intrigued as we watch a length of wall, which initially divides the space in half before being pulled apart like giant “Lego” blocks. These blocks are twisted and turned, become a staircase to climb and are used to create various landscapes.

A cityscape with the seven dancers squeezed into a small space, a coastline perhaps, strewn with “Lego” pieces; all is left to the imagination while fluidly moving between the architecture of restriction and opportunity

Dancenorth’s dancers are exceptional in their physicality and high energy, excelling in their commitment to the choreography. With a mix of hip hop-style head spinning and kamikaze launches into space before landing and rolling with softness and grace, DUST is a physically demanding and rigorous work.

The collaborative team brings together some of the best in the dance industry. Gideon Obarzanek, as the dramaturg, certainly fulfilled his task of ensuring the environmental message along with our associated stewardship comes through clearly.

The set design by Liminal Spaces defined deftly the various spaces that morphed and evolved easily under the hands of the dancers, combining dance and flow whilst constructing and deconstructing the “Lego” blocks throughout the performance.

The lighting is simple but effective, thanks to the experienced eye of Niklas Pajanti with the subtle use of haze and shadows, while the transparent, flowing costumes in smoky colours streaked with ochre by Harriet Oxley combined to create the idea of smog, and the ephemeral nature of the earth.  

Jessica Moss’s live violin accompaniment was mesmerising, with a continual dialogue between dancers and musician raising questions arising from the abstraction: Is that a skyline, a beach, maybe a house? What is the music saying?

At around the 45-minute mark in the performance, with one male dancer left standing alone on the stage, there seemed to be a moment that would be the perfect time to finish the work.

But the performance continued for a further 20 minutes; the exceptional dancing and energy from the dancers seemed to repeat the same moves without adding new ideas and thus diluting the work’s initial intensity.

DUST further cements Dancenorth’s reputation as a contemporary company that is assured in their creative risk-taking and narrative capacity to attract, challenge and define their audiences’ attention.

By Elizabeth Ashley of Dance Informa.

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