Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Dance Clan

So much is happening in March, in fact a calendar full with March Dance*. In fact I was one of the first cabs of the rank giving a lecture demonstration out at Campbelltown Arts Centre, the last in this season titled ‘Talking Bodies’ where I was invited to respond to Wiradjuri countrymen, visual artist Karla Dickens’ epic show titled ‘Embracing Shadows’.

But enough about me.

There is so much on offer this year. From residencies where we can watch a work in process, in development to workshops, classes and performances. I was bummed I missed Josh Freedman’s ‘Dialogues With My Butt’ because it had a great title that also promised a few laughs. Or maybe not. Nah surely! However the promo shot did remind me of choreographer Martin Del Amo’s penchant for the classic tighty-whitey.

I will endeavour to feast on at least a few so I can give you the low-down for the next blog installment.

Speaking of Martin Del Amo, he and I are in development at PACT and will have a showing of works in development on the 25h of March. We are reviving old works. Don’t know about Martin, but I am using this time to break away from my original work. I saw the video footage and my crew are using my previous work as nothing short of a launch-pad onward to better things (hopefully) and I cordially invite you to come see if we succeeded.#

Taking into consideration the mammoth month that was January with Sydney Festival, I utilised February to reflect on all the productions witnessed and experienced. However I did manage to slip in another show in Bangarra Dance Theatre’s ‘Dance Clan’.

If you’re wondering under which guise Dance Clan operates, well wonder no more, it’s a presenting opportunity for emerging choreographers to showcase their burgeoning creative talents and intent. ‘Dance Clan’ is very similar to Sydney Dance Company’s annual ‘New Breed’ season which commissions four emerging choreographers to make a work for their company. The only difference being that Dance Clan is a hundred percent in-house affair while Sydney Dance Company has extended their mandate to include the engagement of choreographers from the independent sector. Maybe this is something new artistic director Frances Rings may try if the Dance Clan initiative becomes a regular occurrence.

The first of the three choreographers showcased was Sani Townson, with his work ‘Kulka’. Presented as a triptych ‘Kulka’ begins with the expression of a creation history representative of Sani’s people coming from the stars. At one point this would have sounded far-fetched but science has confirmed what Sani’s Samu, Koedal and Dhoeybaw clans from Saibai Island in the Torres Strait have known and passed down through countless generations.@

Townson is a versatile creator who has many feathers to his bow including his training at NAISDA and his years as a performer, teacher and cultural advisor to Bangarra, but what I am really fascinated in is his strong connection to the LGBTQIA dance community. I was so happy he included this aspect of his arts practice in his role as artistic director of NAISDA end of year production of ‘Ngoenakap’ in 2019. Maybe I was a little disappointed he didn’t combine some of the dance hall languages with his extensive partnering skills and command of both contemporary and TSI dance in the realisation of ‘Kulka’. I am waiting for the dance hall languages to help articulate or represent messages with gravitas, to be used in other contexts than exclusively for spectacle entertainment.

Now Ryan Pearson, a current long time member of the company did incorporate dance vocabularies associated with the spontaneous expression usually reserved for bars, clubs and living rooms in his piece ‘5 Minute Call’. In the program Pearson explained his intent to express feelings of euphoria, of how he urged the dancers to share the moments when the dance had brought about that state. Well Chantelle Lee Lockhart certainly heard the brief because her dance was the sheer embodiment of fire. Her energy was infectious and her commitment was fierce. The rhythmic solo performed in a shaft of light downstage by Kallum Goolagong was equally compelling. Perhaps this is why I am also drawn to the dances of the Torres Strait. There is nothing more satisfying to watch than a series of well executed stomps performed in compliment and in counterpoint to the tempo.

Shana O’Brien’s simple set design element consisting of trees drawn by a series of small back and forth scribbles illustrated that she has a good eye and is a multi-faceted artist in her own right. It will be interesting to see if and how these aspects of her practice are harnessed by Jo Clancy’s Wagana company in which O’Brien also performs.

Last on the Dance Clan triple bill was Glory Tuohy- Daniell’s ‘Keeping Grounded’, which was made in response to a study on the effects of losing primary contact with the earth through the soles of our feet, by the donning of footwear.

Tuohy- Daniell’s dance was propelled forward by a large scale netted set piece, again designed by Shana O’Brien. Through the interaction with the netting the concept of communication with ancestors, or Dreaming beings, across the divide between the world we and they inhabit was explored. That’s what my imagination perceived at any rate. The work was clearly a sign of our times as, after covid, our access and attitudes toward real time activities in real-scapes were abandoned in favor of imaginative experiences conducted in digital and virtual realms.

I experienced Dance Clan on community night and as I sat amongst the choreographers and a throng of NAISDA Dance College’s new students I came away thinking our future is in good hands.

Oh dammit, how could I forget Brianna Kell’s collaborative work ‘The Other Side’ which premiered at Campbelltown Arts Centre a week before my ‘Talking Bodies’ lecture demonstration. It was very convenient as I always complain about how far away from the city the venue is. However, I always wonder in hindsight whether the hour-long train ride to C-town from Central station, combined with the leisurely 10-minute perambulation to the gallery is worth all that fuss and gripe. I mean, if the price of rentals keeps climbing in the inner city this Indigenous independent dance practitioner might very well be headed out there. No joke.

But I digress.

While “The Other Side” may not have lived up to all the hype promised in the marketing copy, it was an interdisciplinary feast. Music duo Party Dozen really drove this act with their experimental sound. Percussionist Jonathan Boulet made long melodic and droning notes from his drum kit with the aid of his mixer while saxophonist Kirsty Tickle surprised us all by vocalising into her upended horn. They are rock stars and I felt undeniable envy in waves throughout the show, especially as I quietly began headbanging in my back row seat as the show wound up.

Jodie Whalen’s lighting was augmented by installation pieces which replicated light in refractions to imbue the stage with the quality of a music video. Funnily enough, it was the light bouncing off the saxophone and onto Kell’ s face within a danced duo with Tickle which brought my senses into momentary quiet and sharp focus. This subtly was repeated in the second last episode, for want of a better term, whereby Kell appeared to ethereally float across the floor in a translucent robe toward a projected image of nature, with a colour treatment which appeared to be filmed through those cheap 3D glasses from the 50s. Combined with the strangely haunting music score, it was this image which most captured the surrealist intent, as it was truly other worldly.

All right then, ’til next month when hopefully I regale you with tales from the madness that is March Dance.

Vicki Van Hout
FORM Dance Projects
Blogger in Residence


# “PACT LAB: Revival! — PACT Centre for Emerging Artists”

@ “We Are Stardust | AMNH”

“Are we really made of stardust? | Natural History Museum”