Photos – Dominic O’Donnell
According to Dads director Miranda Wheen, Dance Makers Collective are exploring a very different approach with their latest work. Whereas their previous major production was a collection of separately choreographed pieces, the collective’s various performers and choreographers have attempted to collaborate and create a unified whole with their latest work.
It’s really an astonishingly ambitious goal for a collective of choreographers as large and stylistically diverse as theirs. Doubly so, when the premise of their latest work is so technically demanding and artistically fraught with risk. Exploring relationships with their fathers and their fathers’ relationships with dance, Dads slams together dextrous contemporary dance with classic dance movies, cultural critique with character comedy and classic rock with verbatim interview snippets. On just a conceptual level, Dads could have over-extended in any number of directions.
But, to the profound credit of the creatives and performers involved, it largely doesn’t. On the contrary, Dads is (mostly) an impeccably crafted and remarkably sophisticated piece of work – stylistically daring, consistently well-crafted and fundamentally relatable. The only real fault in the production’s make-up is that it comes perilously close to over-staying its welcome. A brief comedic routine and a final solo performance (while both exceptionally executed) feel completely superfluous to the work’s otherwise tightly governed flow.
But, that’s really a minor quibble – and one that only truly serves to demonstrate just how comprehensively Dance Makers Collective have actually succeeded. There’s a surfeit of inventive and jaw-dropping moments throughout the work and, to the ensemble’s considerable credit, they each flow seamlessly into one another and operate beyond the level of pure choreography. Lighting, sound, narrative and theme are employed with as much sophistication as any of the dancers’ physical vocabularies.
A particular standout is a frankly breathtaking duet between Miranda Wheen and Matt Cornell. Choreographed to one father’s recorded comments about how he could never quite master the Charleston, Wheen and Cornell’s duet is a dazzling, dream-like construction that sees them approximating the forms of social dance from the early twentieth century while also moulding and melting their bodies together in a deeply reactive and spontaneously electric fashion. When one thinks they’ve grasped the nature of the two dancers’ interplay, the dynamic shifts and swirls away.
It is utterly magnetic – both a blinding showcase of technique and a deeply considerate reflection on the fundamentally expressive nature of physicality and the treacherous nature of muscle memory and choreography. But, again, it is but one of many such moments throughout. One could highlight any number of examples to highlight different performers and different themes within the work. (A particularly inspired bit of comedy, for example, is Sophia Ndaba’s outstanding rendition of a man attempting to seduce a stranger through dance.)
Unfortunately, Dads will only run for a few nights. But, if you have any opportunity to see Dance Makers Collective’s work in the future, I’d highly recommend seizing it with enthusiasm at your earliest convenience. Exceptional stuff.
Dance Makers Collective presents
Devisors and Performers Matt Cornell, Anya McKee, Sophia Ndaba, Katina Olsen, Marnie Palomares, Melanie Palomares, Carl Sciberras, Miranda Wheen and Rosslyn Wythes
Venue: Riverside Theatres | Corner of Church and Market Streets, Parramatta NSW
Dates: 2 – 5 November 2016
Tickets: $35 – $28
Bookings: (02) 8839 3399 | www.riversideparramatta.com.au