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AUSTRALIAN DANCE PARTY PRESENTS NERVOUS Stromlo Observatory Thu–Sat December 1–3 Driving up the winding road to Mount Stromlo Observatory, I am unsure what to expect. The email says to bring a torch and comfortable warm clothing. Will we be hiking? Will this be one of those interactive shows? The lights strung in trees at the top of the hill indicate the venue. Once out of the car, we are greeted by local musical theatre starlet Michelle Norris, who checks the ticket and shows the way to the bar. Production Manager David Caffery warmly greets us and advises that the doors to the Yale Columbia Dome will open in 20 minutes. I peek through the glassless windows and spot four dancers standing poised inside and fidgeting slightly. I make my way to the bar manned by the dapper Michael Liu – it’s backdropped by rolling hills and a vast clouddappled sky. What a beautiful setting. Chairs line the edges of the dome and electronic music producer Ben Worth stands atop a scaffolded tower, casting a keen eye over the performers below as he mixes beats. Ben is an expert in experimental sound scape and it is a joy to observe him as he mixes the vibrancy of a nervous mind. Will there be a dance party after? Welcome to Nervous, the second work by new local company, Australian Dance Party (ADP). Party Leader Alison Plevey, says in her programme notes that, “Nervous is inspired by both the location and an interest in the unfathomable complexity of the human brain and cosmos.” To create this work, Plevey undertook research through conversations with ANU Neuroscientist Professor Greg Stuart exploring what it is to be nervous. Such undertaking is what new art must explore if it is to be relevant to a constantly changing audience. What connects all of us? Certainly nerves are as good a place as any to begin. Plevey could not have chosen a better venue; indeed, it is the fifth dancer in this unique production. The consideration of the timing of the sunset and the light, shadows, darkness created in the space from it, is exquisite – truly it seems like an indoor production with perfect ambient lighting. Only of course, it isn’t. These performers face the elements and must be prepared for a different experience each night, depending on how it flails. I would have enjoyed seeing it a few times for this reason. Robbie Gordon’s lighting design highlights the natural

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Photo by Lorna Sim

light respectfully, and comes in to its own dynamism once darkness hits. (Throughout the show, I am actually struck by the portrait visions of Norris framed in one doorway, and Caffery and Liu in the other – watching the show and unaware that their presence is part of the theatricality.) So, we are ready for the show. The four dancers stand, walk and run through space. At first they seem composed and beautiful, dressed in colours of cream and white reflective of the peeling paint inside the dome. On closer inspection, we see that their eyes bulge a little, mouths and fingers twitch a little. We see the unmistakable signs of nervousness. The pre-show movement shifts suddenly to flawlessly synchronised choreography. I’ve seen most of these dancers before and they are truly a pleasure to watch, especially when their motivation comes from the inquisitive and passionate mind of Plevey. Each one of them has a moment on their own. Olivia Fyfe accurately describes the inner monologue of calming down – breathe, body scan, count to ten, have a glass of water. And Plevey consistently stands out with her natural dynamism. Highlights for me though were Janine Proost’s charming, repeated attempts to begin a conversation despite her nerves; and Gabriel Comerford’s choice to use loud grunts and groans over words, as he shares his experience of nervousness while pummelling and thrashing his way through space. This is not just a skills display, but a work of true relevance that explores the current human condition. Every movement and sequence is so breathtaking that I want to know it’s origin. But that isn’t the way of dance. And that is what I love about physically driven performance – I am allowed to let it wash over me, just absorb its beauty, and let emotions and bodily sensations move and melt as they will. At the end of the show, the dancers remain in the space and chat with the audience. We filter out the doorless doorways, the view now replaced by a fairyland of white party lights and lasers shooting up though the open ceiling to the dappled clouds. The bar is open, the air is warm and we are left with the joyful resonance of having been inside the mind of the Australian Dance Party. If you missed this one, be sure to catch the next. CHENOEH MILLER

@bmamag

Profile for BMA Magazine

BMA Magazine 488 - 14 December 2016  

Canberra's Entertainment Guide

BMA Magazine 488 - 14 December 2016  

Canberra's Entertainment Guide

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