mouseprintPhoto – Matt Sav

Isabella Stone presents a delicate examination of relationships in an al fresco delight.

A dance stage in a courtyard, under the stars. With audience ranged either side of the performance space, every detail of movement and expression is subject to scrutiny. Dancers Storm Helmore, Jenni Large and Ella-Rose Trew are well up to the challenge, and the potential risks outside the tight control of a conventional theatre space become additional opportunities to demonstrate tight personal physical control, individually and as an ensemble.

Opening with a languid, walking pace, calm movements and only the shrill noises of insects chirping as accompaniment, the three performers arrange themselves on the stage, changing formations and striking poses. Lighting is either side of the stage, working at different levels as the bodies rise, fall and hold themselves in poses in between. After various iterations, accompanying sound rises at the edge of consciousness, swelling and pushing the dancers to move more vigorously, momentum building with an increased pace and energy flowing through movements.

Interaction between performers is highly stylised, precise and exact. A detached mutual approach has no intertwining or companionship, but a physical combination that demands graceful sympathy of movement, without any intimacy. The line between physical proximity and forceful invasion of space is blurred and crossed.

Large has an intensity of expression in her movements that draws and holds the eye. A repeated seated pose, calmly reaching out to Trew as she poses on her hands and knees, changes in meaning and context as the performance progresses, moving from calm acceptance to baffled frustration and to furious reaction. Helmore incorporates movements reminiscent of yoga poses, a meditative quality conveyed throughout in her motion and in her stillness. Trew also has a distinct presence, her sheer physical strength and control never abating. Superb group choreography sees Stone’s choreographer vision coming to life with precision, understanding and intelligent interpretation – all performers are consistently well-matched, and a little unnerving with the exactly parallel alignments of their prone bodies.

Brett Smith’s sound design works with the constantly changing series of movements as well as making the most of the open air atmosphere. While the sound of rain makes many audience members look up, the highlight is using the courtyard’s muddy acoustics to create a thudding heartbeat, morphing into an industrial grinding pound, reverberating against the walls and enfolding us in a cocoon of aural experience. With the movement on stage and the insistent pounding of the beat, audience are drawn into a sense of participation with the approaches and rejections of the dancers.

Chris Donnelly’s lighting design casts shadows with latitudinal shafts of light, flickering figures at the edge of vision echoing the movements of the dancers. The low levels of the directed light perfectly enhance the horizontal planes of movement and progress.

Beautiful to watch, a feast for the senses and stars twinkling above… a lovely presentation of a strongly developed piece.

by Isabella Stone

Choreographer Isabella Stone

Venue: Courtyard, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia
Dates: 15 – 18 April 2015

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