Ignition: But is it really dance?

Ignition But Is It Really Dance Australian Dance TheatrePresented by Australian Dance Theatre in association with the Adelaide Festival Centre’s inSpace programme
Reviewed Wed 18th August 2010

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Season: to Sat 21st August
Duration: 2hrs incl interval
Tickets: SOLD OUT
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or

This production was completely sold out for every performance before it opened. Artistic Director, Garry Stewart, posed the question “what is dance?” This production is a collection of the individual responses to that question from several choreographers, including Stewart. The first half of the evening was a series of shorter works, with brief linking interludes, the second half one much longer piece.

Chris Aubrey’s Apophenia, Kimball Wong’s Arabesque, Larissa McGowan’s Scrap, Stewart’s The Universe of No-body and Tara Soh’s and Kyle Page’s Be that as it may provide a diverse set of responses that both enlighten and provoke further responses from the audience. Aubrey draws on filmic techniques in a household setting and Wong, with a fair degree of humour, reveals a series of difficult auditions, a choreographer eliminating each dancer in turn until only one remains, then starting the process again. McGowan certainly challenges her dancers, as her piece is a choreographed ‘punch up’, based not on traditional dance moves but drawing on violence and the moves of fighters. Soh and Page, both choreographers and dancers for this work, add a high level of video projection onto a newspaper screen to their live performance, interacting closely with it. The approaches to Stewart’s provocative theme could not be more different and each is superbly realised, in their own way, by the choreographers and their teams of dancers.

The choreographers also dance in one another’s performances, along with Troy Honeysett and Lauren Langlois. The work of lighting designer Mark Pennington and photographer/videographer Chris Herzfeld cannot be overemphasized. Their contribution to the production is enormous. Strangely, the only music that is mentioned was that for Scrap, by Jethro Woodward.

There is also a measure of humour running through the works, particularly Stewart’s piece where he works with Kialea-Nadine Williams. He prtrays a choreographer explaining to his dancer what he wants from her and his philosophical viewpoint on the reasoning behind his ideas. This is a very funny piece and, if you have read The Empty Space, by Peter Brook, you might get even more laughs from it.

Guest choreographer Anthony Hamilton’s RGB forms the entire second half of the programme. This is an introspective piece, with six dancers in white, almost anonymous, often closely locked together into a homogenous collective, becoming a canvas for the overlaying of the three colours, Red, Green and Blue, those same three colours, two primary and one secondary, that are additively mixed in television screens to create all others. Again, the behind the scenes team of costume designer, Paula Levis, and composer/video artist, Robin Fox, contribute a great deal to this work.

This was a remarkable evening and it contained so much that it really deserves to be seen more than once to absorb all of the intricacies and subtleties. Alas, with such a short season and one that was already sold out, this is impossible. What a pity that it wasn’t recorded for later broadcast on an ABC Arts programme or purchase as a DVD.

Is it dance, movement, theatre, multimedia, performance art, or something else entirely? As the various Arts disciplines continue to inform one another, blend, cross-over and combine, all of the genres become increasingly difficult to define and label as separate, clear and distinct entities. This production pushes and blurs some of those boundaries even further but, whether you consider it dance or prefer to give it some other label, the result is a fascinating and absorbing evening of innovative and exhilarating performances from a highly creative group of practitioners. If you were too slow to get a ticket for this season you will just have to hope that it is soon repeated, as it surely should be.

Alternatively, you could be very smart and take a short trip along the freeway to the Murray Bridge Town Hall on Thursday 26th August at 8pm where Country Arts SA is putting on one more performance. Bookings for this are on 8539 1100 and tickets are only: Adults $27.50/Under 17 $17.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.

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