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  • Fiona Prior


Things that make you go ‘Wow’

When you take a group of creative young ones out on a Saturday night you aim to find that special show or venue that will make them go ‘wow’!

Sydney’s Carriageworks does the trick in spades and I was very lucky to be able to segue from a visit to the Nick Cave installation presently sparkling in the vast exhibition space (here) to ‒ for its fifth consecutive year ‒ ‘New Breed’, co-presented by Carriageworks and Sydney Dance Company. This year, 'New Breed' showcases four choreographic talents: Prue Lang, Katina Olsen, Janessa Dufty and Holly Doyle. And talents they are.

The first work on the bill was Prue Lang’s ‘Towards Innumerable Futures’ and it was anything but. Androgynous figures dressed in what appear to be almost identical lycra outfits and courting black or white ‘Sia’ bobs continually fell into couples, connecting with each other at a single physical point; toes, elbows, heads, hips, etc. Every so often one would break away, tagged by the last arguably free agent, while graceful contortions and dual configurations continually evolved on stage. ‘Over’, a neon sign above the work shone out, illuminating this strange world at varied intervals.

The second work on the bill, Katina Olsen’s ‘Mother’s Cry’, opened with a scene of breathtaking beauty as sculpturally lit dancers crouched on a mist-filled stage, while the melodic sounds of nature filled the silence. Possibly the most classically elegant piece of the night, the program tells us that our time on earth has come to an end and that the clouds are strings that guide us to the sky. The piece lives up to this poetic descriptor, with dancers languid and undulating as they wove around this interim, mysterious landscape. As audience, without the above descriptor in the program you would not have been sure if mother earth was giving birth or dying, as the shadowy scene was either the entrance or exit from a place of great beauty.

The third work, Janessa Dufty’s ‘Telopea’ was punctuated by the honeyed voice of Tobias Merz and was an ode to the Telopea Waratah flower. The dancers – all but one male – wore beautiful flowing, pleated garments that acted a little like the opening of flower petals, as the dancer’s arabesque stretches and configurations used the fabric’s flow to advantage. Lighting was again used to inject a mystical mood into this piece.

The final work, Holly Doyle’s ‘Out, Damned Spot!’ reminded me of Anthony Hamilton’s recent production of ‘Forever and Ever’ in collaboration with Sydney Dance Company. ‘Out, Damned Spot!’ was definitely the most choreographically courageous work of the night and, judging from the reaction of some dancers sitting in the audience, possibly the most physically demanding. Like our first piece ‘Towards Innumerable Futures’, ‘Out, Damned Spot!’ provoked a world where human individuality no longer resides, as identically clad dancers accompanied by an electronic score, moved in unison and with strangely abrupt though elegant motions. Frequent physical humour plus a more abstract use of the dancers’ forms and sizes in space made the audience stretch beyond our accustomed expectations of contemporary dance.

The lighting for each work was designed by Alexander Berlage and costumes were by Aleisa Jelbart. Both captured the ambience and mood of these very different future visions.

(Note: Carriageworks will soon miss the driving force of its Director Lisa Havilah who has been appointed Chief Executive of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Lisa assumes the role in January 2019, and will be overseeing the Powerhouse Museum’s controversial move to its new home in Parramatta, slated to open in 2023. Lisa Havilah will make a success of this controversial new post if anyone can, so watch this space.)

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