Expression Dance Company (EDC) presented their most recent season of 'Propel' at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts last week (3-11 March).
The 'Propel' initiative, instigated in 2014 by Artistic Director Natalie Weir, is a platform for both established & emerging choreographers to work with the dancers of EDC. This particular season of 'Propel' contains four works by four different choreographers, and although EDC is only six dancers strong, these independent works validate EDC’s place as one of the state’s most inspiring and relevant dance companies.
In a nutshell, 'Propel' 2017 is brimming with creativity, and showcases the latest in daring contemporary dance from Australia’s Lisa Wilson, Amy Hollingsworth, Elise May and China’s Xu Yiming. Lisa Wilson’s 'Hollow Lands' – a response to visual artist Etta Lilienthal’s light installation of the same name – opened the show.
Recreated by lighting designer Ben Hughes, the white tubes of light that define the space are used to great effect with the dancers moving within and through the frame that blinked and flashed and changed to provide a movable dimension. With a score created by four avant-garde musicians including Ben Ely of Brisbane band Regurgitator, this beautiful but sometimes jarring work highlights the skill of the six dancers who work seamlessly together.
Elise May and Michelle Barnett have such confidence in their ability, every movement in this complex work is delivered with precision. 'Written on the Body' by EDC veteran Elise May (who was recently elevated to the role of Assistant to the Artistic Director) is borne from May’s interest in digital media, the moving image and sensory inputs such as light and sound. In this piece, May leaves the body work to her five colleagues who explore the impact of our relationships and how each person we meet shapes the way we perceive ourselves and how a simple encounter can change our future.
Alana Sargent - Image © Fiona Cullen
In an Australian premiere, Chinese choreographer Xu Yiming presented his acclaimed solo 'Waiting Alone', with choreography that owes as much to theatre as it does to dance. 'Waiting Alone' was self-created and has now been entrusted to the three men from EDC to interpret. The night we attended, Benjamin Chapman was featured and he was truly exceptional.
Dressed in an ill-fitting suit, and with nothing but Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’ for support, Chapman filled the empty stage with his presence.
The final piece in this quartet of works – 'Deeper Than Ink' – belongs to the hugely talented Amy Hollingsworth who explores the heartbreaking and exhilarating rollercoaster of human emotions that accompany lost love. To further accentuate the permanence of the emotional pain, Alana Sargent had the six dancers wearing tattooed body suits.
But it was the thoughtful pairing of dancers Jake McLarnon and Alana Sargent that had the audience spellbound.
Special mention should be made of Ben Hughes’ bold lighting design and Alana Sargent’s costuming which provided the visual framework for each of these works; but more importantly, ably supported the creative vision of these four incredibly talented choreographers.