Photos - Tony Lewis
Dance that amazes is one thing. Dance that can amaze and make its audience think is something else entirely. Leigh Warren & Dancers’ Seven is both – a visual treat that calls on its audience to reflect on some intriguing and at times difficult themes.
The overall shape of Seven can be summed up by referring to its source material: the tale of Snow White and her seven dwarfs. But to explain this complex piece through such a simple comparison seems crude. While Seven is a fairytale, it's one where the mirror on the wall is cracked, the stepmother isn’t always evil and the dwarfs live in what is basically a sharehouse, complete with rivalries and intimacies.
The most striking aspect of this production, obvious from the moment the curtain reveals the dwarves’ dreamlike abode, is the connection between the dancers. Seven’s promotional material refers to a ‘workshopping’ of the narrative components of Snow White to create the choreography, and it’s clear there are hours and hours of work behind this statement. Dance that looks as natural and as cohesive as this takes time and dedication from every member of the company.
As well as a flawless connection with each other, these dancers have one other element that makes Seven the engaging piece that it is: a palpable sense of fun. While Warren and his dancers are dealing with the heavy themes of family, sexuality and the role of the mother, they somehow manage to weave in plenty of humour and elicit more than a few giggles from the audience.
Natalie Allen is particularly fun to watch as she shifts between the roles of Dopey and the princess figure. Deon Hastie also has a wonderful sense of comic timing. There is joy in all the dancers, and they each create many moments of strength and grace. Jo Roads and Anthony Trojman’s seated piece was particularly enthralling with its impossible lifts and sombre atmosphere. Nic Mollison's lighting and video design should not go unmentioned, as this was central in making the production as visually stunning as it was.
Because Seven is based on the story of Snow White, even those new to dance have a clear frame of reference to interpret what happens on stage. However, this can also become distracting, as the audience tries to keep track of where the tale deviates from the familiar. The use of a vocal track, with samples from the play Speaking in Tongues and the film Lantana, did go some way towards countering this, however there were times when confusion took over for a moment or two.
In the end, Seven simply asks its audience to give in to the dreamlike quality of the piece, and to understand it on a subconscious level. Of course, it's difficult to measure the success of something so intangible, but the murmured reactions of the audience did give some clues: “amazing” was one, along with “beautiful”, “unexpected” and even a word to Warren on the way out: “love your work”.
Leigh Warren & Dancers
Venue: ‘The Q’ Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre | 253 Crawford St, Queanbeyan
Dates/Times: August 20 - 22 @ 8pm
Bookings: www.theq.net.au or 02 6298 0290