The Pleasure Principle | Ignite the DarkIgnite the Dark's beautiful jazz dance ensemble create an intimate and sensual performance in their latest production, The Pleasure Principle. Choreographed by Alfie Scalia (who has previously worked with acts such as Meatloaf and on Hey Hey, It's Saturday) and directed by Daniel Ryan, The Pleasure Principle takes a look at the heart of desire and temptation – and the idea that what we most want is to be happy, no matter at what cost or at what taboo.

The set itself is minimal in the Gasworks black box theatre. A zig-zag like white screen is installed on the back wall, wide enough for projections to be seen upon it. These include sections of 'script' to illustrate what is happening on stage: stage directions and snippets of dialogue that go, for the better part, unheard. Technical difficulties are noted: lighting does not initially co-operate, nor does sound. The dancers should be lauded for their ability to continue their initial few steps without pause or concern. Opening with an unexpected, implied rape of the stereotypical Southern belle, the depiction of the before and after demonstrates that The Pleasure Principle is not all sweet innocent love and tenderness. This theme of raunchiness and illicit, or at least less-moral pursual of desire continues throughout.

A highlight of the show is the humorous interlude of a male school teacher bombarded by aesthetically pleasing minors. Playing out what's surely not an uncommon fantasy, the comedy present in the male teacher's stumbling over his 'options' is played up coyly. The performers seem aware there's an audience at all times, throwing winks, glares, suggestive looks out to viewers. The reminder that we are spectators to a world is cleverly done, although it's ambition is less clear – do we want to think of ourselves as voyeurs or question why precisely we can relate to some of these scenes? It's a pity that at times, the stage is over cluttered by action with no concise focal point and that the decadent costuming can occasionally hamper dancers. However these issues don't linger: a few more runs will clear up any stumbles.

Each ensemble member brings their own intensity and strengths. The performance directors have done a good job of ensuring that each talented performer gets their opportunity to shine, be it in highlighted solo or dazzling partner dance filled with complex lifts. Others receive 'character' roles that permit The Pleasure Principle the guise of being part-story beyond solely dance as well. The limited male dancers transition from tightly wound office workers, to uncertain and aroused school teacher, to – in their best physical comedy work displayed – rowdy and drunken male friends in search of a little something. These vignettes work nicely to explore the heart of Scalia and Ryan's narrative of the darker side of human nature, both sexual and emotional.

The Pleasure Principle aims to titillate but also provoke curiosity to the fantasies, the everyday scenes proposed which the audience can relate to – and it certainly does. Littered with quotes to reinforce the narrative's ideas on hedonism, submissiveness, and all in between, it's easy to be swept away in an elegant visual portrayal of the darker side of our psyches.

Ignite the Dark present
The Pleasure Principal

Venue: Gasworks Theatre | cnr Graham and Pickles St, Albert Park
Dates: July 18 – 21, 2012
Times: Wed - Sat 8pm, Sat matinee 2pm
Tickets: $35
Bookings: 03 9699 3253 |

Most read Melbourne reviews

  • Miss Saigon | Opera Australia
    Entirely sung through, this is a musical with a proper and original score that still feels remarkably fresh and sits in staggering contrast to the slot machine pay outs of a Jukebox musical.
  • A Very Jewish Christmas Carol | Melbourne Theatre Company
    Just like the source material, this is a morality tale, a fantasy to reflect dysfunction, rectify disappointment and repair disillusion but legacy and intergenerational grief are tenacious task masters.
  • Death of a Salesman | GWB Entertainment and Red Line Productions
    LaPaglia is simply outstanding as a salesman bartering down his own price. Believable, present, committed – every indignity is expertly handled, never demonstrated but achingly and authentically realised.
  • Oneiric | National Institute of Circus Arts
    Oneiric stands out as one of the best NICA graduate showcases in memory. The show is a true fusion of contemporary dance with circus skills.
  • Crystal | Cirque du Soleil
    It’s hard to follow the exact story, but that doesn’t really matter, as Crystal is more about enjoying familiar circus acts recontextualized within a bevy of ice dancers and stunt skaters.