Down a North Melbourne laneway and up a tight flight of stairs sits Thread Den, a sewing lounge and shop selling clothes by Melbourne designers. Throw in five dance solos by five hip young choreographers and you have Seamstress, a snappy collection of works that all take up the theme of costume in some way. With audience snuggled together, perched on stools in a space the size of a lounge room, it’s a very fringe experience. But unlike so many fringe offerings, this show delivers the whole package. It supports its clever concept with solos each unique in aesthetic and choreographic vocabulary. The solos are all short - under ten minutes - and are more bobbins of thread than full spools.
Susan van den Ham opens with Horse and I accompanied by Justin Ashworth who generates the soundscape with a typewriter. It’s hard to know what to make of this curious piece - a male walks through beating a drum and van den Ham shifts from daydreaming against the wall to exploring the space with inquisitive gesture and then turns on and off a small lantern. Of the five solos, it’s the least recognizably related to costume, but nonetheless, van den Ham’s wide-eyed wonder and idiosyncratic movement style are appealing.
Melissa Jones’ Opaque is more clearly readable as a dance about costume. In corset, she stands perched on a table and wriggles herself into a thick paper dress. She barely moves throughout the whole piece other than to revolve slowly and pin up her hair. A music box accompanies and a video projects onto the dress. It’s an atmospheric piece about preparation more than activity and exudes a contemplative air.
In contrast, Alice Dixon really works through choreography (as much as she can in the confines of such a small space!) in her offering called Threadbare. In blousy sheer black fabric with lines of white tape around her torso and legs, her movements and detailed finger posturing suggest measuring and counting. She’s in and out of the floor and finds plenty of length and line in her movement material.
What’s most striking about Caroline Meaden’s Bloom is the sleeveless turquoise dress that she wears. The garment, which swishes past her toes, was her mother’s university ball gown and is still a very smart piece of clothing. Like Dixon, Meaden envelopes the intimate space, her long limbs flying and getting lost in the billowing fabric of the dress as she imitates manners and conventions of femininity.
Cossie, by Jess Devereux (clad in 1950s swimming costume) is the most overtly humourous with her facial expressions, awkward posing and a frantic, high-intensity energy. Her choreography is clever and surprising and, in its brief duration, builds a clear sense of character.
All of the Seamstress solos have scope for further development, but as a collection they work well together. It’s great to see dancers doing it for themselves – creating off-beat and unique forums to get their ideas out there with little cash. Three cheers to Thread Den for providing them the space to experiment.
Thread Den Presents
Venue: Thread Den, Upstairs via laneway, 16 Errol St, North Melbourne 3051 Melways 2A J10
Dates: 28 Sep - 2 Oct 2008
Tickets: Full $10.00
Bookings: Festival Tix: 03 9660 9666 or www.melbournefringe.com.au