Be Your Self | Australian Dance TheatrePhoto – Chris Herzfeld

Australian debut for strongly themed, well-travelled, polished dance entertainment.

Be Your Self takes the concept of self as a starting point, triggered by conversations between Australian Dance Theatre (ADT)’s Artistic Director, Garry Stewart, and a Buddhist monk who guided meditation sessions for the company. From various concepts, a strong presentation has emerged, honed by further development in its European tours and workshop sessions.

Commencing with text rapidly delivered by actor Annabel Giles, Kimball Wong stays still, centre stage. Even as he holds still, his body accomplishes a multitude of amazing things, the commentary full of impressively long words as the dancer captivates with his stillness. An exploration of the self as a physical entity, weird and wonderful twitches and manipulations around the stage, focussing on physical control and loss of control with impressive twists, turns and flying through the air, follows as this concept develops. Dancers are accompanied by Brendan Woithe’s zany musical accompaniment, nearly a collection of sound effects that highlights the energetic slapstick zest.

Prompted by further text, the piece moves into an exploration of the self as an emotional being, whether alone or in interaction with others. The interpersonal dynamics become charged, with music stepping up to the changed mood and extremes of behaviour are enacted – from fighting to fucking. Energy levels and physical expression remain full on during this section – admirable displays of technique, expression and strength, particularly from Zoë Dunwoddie with particularly expressive facial expressions, amongst the many other performers emoting intensely.

The final section makes most use of the main prop, a moving ramp, as the previously dynamic lighting design from Damien Cooper sees lights dim, the music fades to a grinding repetition and we explore the self in an even less tangible way, the firing of neurons, the chemical reactions and the space within. Expressed by abstract collections of limbs emerging from a white wall, precise timing and movement creates consistent patterns with most of the dancers’ bodies hidden from view. The abrupt loss of faces to engage and challenge the audience at the same time as dropping the physical intensity may work as an opportunity for reflection for some, but it does feel like a remarkably quiet way to end a performance so marked by flamboyant skill and energetic displays.

Lighting and sound are spot on with this piece, even while not the most engaging, the closing monotonous rumbles of sound and murky lighting levels are appropriate to the mood and the movements. The technical work comes into its own during the earlier focus on the physical potentials, and emphasises the way these talented performers make the absurd pushing of limits look so easy. Simple costuming by Gaelle Mellis is adjusted slightly as the piece progresses, and the androgynous results make the play with physical illusions (transposition of one dancer’s head onto another’s body, for example) look particularly effective. The moving ramp is the hero of the set, adjusting the nature of the performance area as it plays various parts – from projection screen to point of emergence – in the work.

A contemporary dance work that entertains and thrills lovers of dance but also those entirely new to the art form.  Be Your Self may not break new ground in terms of dance repertoire but combines the best talents from theatre and dance to welcome new audiences to this exciting art form.

Perth Theatre Trust and Australian Dance Theatre present
Be Your Self
Choreography by Garry Stewart and the dancers of Australian Dance Theatre

Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre, Perth Cultural Centre
Dates: 24 – 27 June 2015
Tickets: from $45  

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