Left - Richard Causer and Riannon McLean. Photo by Fiona Cullen
When you sit down in the rehearsal space of Expressions Dance Company in the Judith Wright Centre it feels as if you are about to be privy to something that you shouldn’t really be seeing as an audience member. The room is small, closed in and hidden away like an attic at the top of the impressive Judy. And it’s a working space, unpolished and practical; a place to learn, to experiment and to take risks. So it follows that this is the perfect place to hold the annual season of Expressions Launch Pad, an initiative by EDC for emerging choreographers to develop and show their work with the company’s incredible dancers.
This season showcases three Brisbane-based choreographers, Timothy Brown, Liesel Zink and Zaimon Vilmanis and Gina Rings from Adelaide. They’re all finding success in the industry already, and it’s a privilege to be able to get so up close and personal with their latest work.
Natalie Weir, Artistic Director of Expressions says there were no criteria for the choreographers to work within for this project, but that she wanted them to use at least two dancers, and the piece had to be around 10 minutes. In an interesting (and perhaps telling) twist though, each choreographer explores relationships between men and women, and the tension, beauty and intimacy that surrounds that.
Intimacy is the key word here, as not only is the subject matter very personal, but sitting so close the dancers mean we hear their every breath and see the movement and grace of each muscle. As an audience member used to seeing only polished performances on a distant stage (where the dancers seem more like gorgeous machines than hard-working humans) this was an amazing, almost overwhelmingly intimate experience, one that gave me a whole new appreciation for the work of the dancers.
The feeling of getting up close and personal is heightened by the fact that Natalie invites the choreographer to speak about their work before it begins. They are so passionate about what they’ve done and why they’ve done it, and everything is so carefully considered, from costuming to stage design to music choices, that you can’t help but feel in awe of their creativity.
Timothy Brown’s use of a huge tennis net stretching across the stage (to symbolise the tension, the push and pull between two people) is a wonderful, simple centrepiece for Caught Out, a work that is jarring, witty, and athletic. The costume of tennis whites just added to the feeling of a beautiful game of emotional back and forth between the two dancers (Riannon McLean and Anthony Trojman)
The Fragile, from Zaimon Vilmanis also explores the battleground that is love and relationships, the private moments of fury and frustration that an outsider may witness but not understand. His incredibly clever use of video and music, as well as an ingeniously propped up table, gives his piece a powerful, aggressive edge that shows his maturity and experience as a choreographer. Zaimon also danced in this piece on the night I attended (due to an injury to dancer Ryan Males) and he and partner Elise May were gripping.
The first piece from Gina Rings, Identity, also utilises sound perfectly, with a track of music layered with the voices of the dancers introducing themselves and talking about their heritage in a work about struggling with, cementing, and celebrating the development of individual identity. The dancers, Jesse Martin, Jade Coutts, Hannah Scalon and Kaine Sultan-Babji, are still students (three at the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts and one at QUT) and their youth added depth to the message of the work.
Her second piece, Long Time Ago, explores the internal battle of living in an often claustrophobic, crowded world, while often longing for a more serene existence and how we cope with this as couples and as individuals. Here, Rings finds a lovely balance between tension and release with the help of dancers Riannon McLean and Richard Causer.
The standout piece for me was It Fell on the Floor Between Them by Liesel Zink. It’s actually a small part of her Honours work at QUT that Expressions asked her to expand upon for Launch Pad, and you can see why. It’s a modern, striking exploration of how two bodies exist in the same space at the same time. Before her piece, Liesel spoke about her fascination with communication through movement and body language (which was the topic of her Honours work), and the depth of her thought and knowledge of this topic is evident in a mature and compelling piece. The feelings of frustration, irritation and disintegration are palpable, and to convey this with movement is a triumph for Liesel and dancers Samantha Mitchell and Richard Causer.
Launch Pad really is something rare: the chance to see the work of emerging choreographers who will no doubt be the ones to watch as time goes on. So venture up to the room at the top of the Judy and experience the fresh, the brave and the modern. You’ll be one of a privileged few.
Expressions Dance Company presents
Launch Pad – Double Act 2010
Venue: Studio, Level 4, Judith Wright Contemporary Arts Centre
Dates: 2 - 6 March, 2010
Bookings: 3257 4222