Adelaide Festival Dances into Intimate Spaces and Intriguing Places

From the traumatised to the improvised, the 2017 Adelaide Festival offers an unusually wide variety of dance.

Last year, two multi-award winning Canadian groups, Crystal Pite’s Kidd Pivot and Jonathon Young’s Electric Company Theatre, combined to produce Betroffenheit – the word describes the shocked state which follows profound trauma – a theatrical response to the deaths by fire of Young’s daughter, niece and nephew in 2009.

As the protagonist, Young, an actor, is joined onstage by five dancers performing Pite’s choreography to present his own deeply distressed emotional and psychological state. The text is mostly in voice-over, lip-synched by both male and female performers.

betroffenheit-adelaide-festival-dance-adelaide-reviewBettrofenheit will be a challenging show (photo: Michael Slobodian)

The deeply disturbing subject of Young’s story would have appealed to Pite, who began her career in 1988 and danced with several companies, including William Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet, and formed Kidd Pivot in 2002.

She has created more than 40 works including the brief but memorable Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue, seen in Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s program for the 2015 Adelaide Festival. Pite’s work is frequently dark, typified by the sinister, if sometimes humorous, Dark Matters (2010), in which a puppet does battle with its creator, and Tempest Replica (2011), based on Shakespeare’s play. Reviewing the London performance of Betroffenheit, the Observer’s Luke Jennings describes her as a “choreographer of unequalled sensibility and emotional intelligence”.

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Bettrofenheit has been critically lauded (photo: Michael Slobodian)

“Her movement language is one of flickering nuance, of galvanic action and reaction. Impulses race through her groupings like electricity, flinging the dancers into the enclosing darkness before drawing them back into pulsing, glimmering friezes,” he wrote.

Jérome Bel’s Gala could scarcely be more different. Three years ago Bel had the idea of putting several people on stage, letting them create their own dances, and shaping them into a performance. The cast is a mixture of amateur and professional performers with an age range anything from seven to 75.

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Gala’s unique development style has helped it become a global sensation (photo: Josefina Tommasi)

His success has led to performances in France, England, America and elsewhere, and enthusiastic critical and audience response. “The results are haphazard, funny and touching, but entirely individual,” wrote the Guardian’s Judith Mackrell. A Singapore reviewer enjoyed a “night of hilarity – not that we were laughing at the dancers’ lack of skill, but that they had the chutzpah to just be themselves, get on stage and dance their hearts out”, and in the New York Times Roslyn Sulcas went overboard, saying, “It’s a tour de force, wildly entertaining, and through the deliberate exploitation of conventional form, truly radical.”

In Adelaide, Roz Hervey, artistic coordinator of Restless Dance Theatre, and coordinator for Gala, is gathering a cast of 15 that will include among others a professional ballerina, a famous actor, a couple of contemporary dancers, a couple of children, two people with disabilities, a baton twirler, and a couple of retired people. Should be fun, to say the least.

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Adelaide’s iteration of Gala will be performed with a diverse new cast (photo: Josefina Tommasi)

Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company has won a following in Australia, and one of its leading dancers, Sharon Eyal, who had danced with it from 1990 to 2008 and was a resident choreographer, formed L-E-V in 2013 with event designer Gai Behar, later joined by percussionist, DJ and techno-musician Ori Lichtik. The Hebrew word ‘lev’ incorporates the meaning ‘heart’ but Eyal and Behar say it can mean “whatever you want it to mean”.

The company has had some qualified praise, but the two recent works coming to Adelaide have gained plaudits. The London Evening Standard found OCD Love “hugely striking” and showing a “strong choreographic signature”.

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Y.E.V.’s OCD Love will explore the difficulty of obsessive compulsive disorder (photo: Regina Brock)

The piece is inspired by Neil Hilborn’s text OCD, on YouTube, which Eyal says is “very strong for me, because I feel it reflects me so much … I see everything in the piece very dark, and in shadows, you and your shadow dancing.” The Guardian critic was impressed: “Watching OCD Love, it’s striking how perfectly music and choreography can reflect the obsessive compulsive state. Hilborn’s poem describes a life punctuated and hyper-extended by ritual. … L-E-V’s six dancers are almost hypnotically attuned to each other.”

A similar aesthetic informs the second work, Killer Pig, in which five dancers create an atmosphere of disorientation through wild, erratic movement, but according to Israel’s Time Out, “emerge as the ones in control with an almost mystical hold over their audience”. Less kindly, The New York Times found that “their mania is hard to believe”. A work to make up our own minds about.

intimate-space-adelaide-festival-dance-adelaide-reviewIntimate Space will take a small audience through an immersive experience (photo: Jianna Georgiou)

Something different again from Adelaide’s Restless Dance Theatre. With audiences limited to 10 for each performance, a new work, Intimate Space, will take us into the Adelaide Hilton. Not just one room but the bars and bedrooms, the laundry and even the loading dock.

Jason Sweeney has composed a soundscape to accompany the adventure, which is directed by Michelle Ryan, and marks Restless’s Adelaide Festival debut. Three guest artists from Flinders University’s drama department will be joining 19 company members in the work, which will consist of four to five minute scenes in eight different spaces.

There is bound to be some overlapping of audiences, from one space to the next, so Ryan is hoping that there will be a blurring of lines between audience and performers. Like most of the dance in the Festival, Intimate Space is based on an intriguing concept.

Adelaide Festival
March 3 to March 19
adelaidefestival.com.au

Header photo: Intimate Space, image supplied

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