Australian Dance Reviews

Lilian Steiner’s ‘Siren Dance’ is a brave work in INDance

Lilian Steiner's 'Siren Dance'. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti.
Lilian Steiner's 'Siren Dance'. Photo by Gregory Lorenzutti.

Sydney Dance Company’s Neilson Studio, Sydney. 
19 August 2022. 

Sydney’s independent dance scene gets a boost from Sydney Dance Company and the new Neilson Studio with INDance. 

INDance is the new inaugural program of contemporary dance that is developed and curated by Sydney Dance Company Director Rafael Bonachela and an industry panel. The program aims to encourage independent dance creatives to work with Sydney Dance Company and provide a platform in its new Walsh Bay Neilson studio, with its large performance space.

Over two weekends, the program showcases works by emerging independent dance makers Lilian Steiner, Pru Lang, Natalie Allen and Rhiannon Newton.

Siren Dance by Melbourne-based Lilian Steiner is a solo performance about dance and about “the slipperiness of truth and the power of magnetism and illusion that mashes together notions of beauty and the beast, for the classical contemporary body.” There is an undercurrent of pathos despite the ethereal lightness of the shimmering silk which seems at cross purposes. She throws away clothes that she feels trapped within and feeling caught in between reality and absurdity.

It is uncertain whether we, the audience, will surrender to the siren, or will the Siren surrender? Steiner moves with an etherality as her upper body strikes many of the poses of Balinese shadow dance while her lower body dances classically on pointe shoes. Steiner seems to move effortlessly between east and west, one moment challenging, then threatening, seducing in her commanding angularity.

Geoffrey Watson’s costume design, with its shimmering sheer tunics that suggested Egyptian hieroglyphics, was an attraction, as the dancer seemed to struggle in the shimmering silk. But while the costume was a visual prop when moving, Steiner was covered too much for the dancer to shine when dancing; the contrasting upper and lower body would have potentially been more interesting with greater contrast that the dancer much of Steiner’s dance required. There are fabrics strewn, here and there and thrown around willy nilly as if not sure of her true identity.

Marco Gibard’s sound design blended effortlessly with Steiner’s movements. The soundtrack was both alluring in parts but also eerie and ominous as the dance moved to the floor and seemed increasingly displaced from the dancer. Giovanni Yate Gonzalez’s lighting design was spare and uncluttered, allowing for Steiner to shine and move undistracted. The Nielsen Studio is a large performance space which almost loses Steiner as she floats effortlessly around the floor.

The performance is not for the faint hearted, being a solid 60 minutes, which must have been demanding for a solo performer. As always, solo performances often struggle to generate and sustain contrasting moods and dramatic conflict, and Siren Dance was no exception.

It was a brave and sensitive performance by Steiner, and Sydney Dance Company’s INDance initiative must be commended for their support and bold platforming of emerging and independent artists.

By Elizabeth Ashley of Dance Informa. 

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