Photos - Paul Scanbler
Based in Launceston, Tasdance isn’t far away, but the challenges of touring make it difficult to see the company regularly. Not all of their seasons come to Melbourne, but when they do, they always offer something new, with different choreographers contributing to each show. Choreographers Natalie Weir and Kate Denborough tackle the subject of motherhood in Parenthesis. While the two choreographers approach the topic from differing angles and employ different movement vocabularies, there is a pleasing symmetry to the double bill and a definite sense of thematic unity.
In terms of similarities, both works are narrative-driven and use six dancers (three females, three males). There is overt symbolism and clear domestic settings and each piece runs about half an hour. Choreographic style is where they most diverge. Weir’s In Her Footsteps is a solemn work that draws on fairly formal movement - ballet-influenced sequences and clean crisp gestures. Denborough’s Pink Lines, while still grappling with serious issues, has a more playful sense and mixes physical theatre techniques with dance vocabulary.
In front of a half-built house, a mother (Amelia McQueen) sits in a rocking chair and reminisces. In Her Footsteps is a series of flashbacks - a wedding scene, a linear grouping of male/female duets that suggests a domestic argument, a couple whose attempts to connect are buffeted by their child, an adult son moving away from his mother’s home. These scenarios are easy to read, at times heavy handed, and strung together through an emotive soundtrack ranging from Beethoven to John Williams that evokes bittersweet melancholia. The imagery is always clear, whether it is a literal prop like a tricycle or an abstracted dance sequence. A pathway of variously sized men’s shoes, from small baby booties to large work boots beautifully encapsulates the experience of watching a son transition into adulthood. Overall, the young dancers seem more at ease with the physical skill required for the long leg extensions, rolling falls to the ground and balletic pas de deux than they are with the emotional weight of the work.
In contrast, the ensemble is at home with the pedestrian style and youthful exuberance of Pink Lines. Around two identically constructed bedrooms, complete with Ikea-esque futons and lamps, parallel groups of guys and girls primp for a night on the town. Drinking, gossip, flirtation and the subsequent one night stand occur. A wedding, a pregnancy and sleepless nights follow.
Denborough uses a range of movement techniques to carry the action, from contemporary dance duets for the pregnant females and their male partners, to a clever contact-improvisation inspired section where the six pajama-clad dancers yawn while falling on and off each other as they try to make it through another sleepless night. Each section has a distinct thematic idea, with the later ones really capturing the essence of what new parents experience in trying to relate to each other, their baby and their single friends.
Tasdance’s artistic director Annie Grieg has commissioned well with Weir and Denborough. Parenthesis is a fruitful show offering two spins on a familiar topic with accessible, high-quality dance that easily speaks to a wide audience.
Gasworks Theatre, 21 Graham Street Albert Park
31 July - 2 August @8pm
Adult $35/Child $19/Conc $24
Bookings: 03 9699 3253 or www.gasworks.org.au