[REVIEW] Illuminate 2015 by Move Through Life Dance Company @ Marion Cultural Centre, Friday 22 May 2015

Kirsty Duncan’s powerful choreography, filled with interconnected layers of meaning, was the shining star of the 2015 Illuminate season.

Move through Life Dance Company’s third Illuminate season kicked off on Friday 22 May 2015. Shining a light on new choreographers, the season featured works by Kirsty Duncan and dancers, Rodney Cuthbertson, and guest choreographer Katria Lazaroff.

Playing to a full house, Kirsty Duncan’s playful piece On the wind kicked off the evening. Short and cute, the piece was inspired by watching grass flies in the wind darting around in the sunlight. And that’s pretty much what this piece was. The costumes were particularly apt, being silvery white and featuring head pieces that emphasised head movements. While the work was short, it was a nice introduction to the evening, and started to introduce us to the company’s capacity.

The second piece, by Rodney Cuthbertson, was called Routines. Based on the routines of our daily lives, we follow a small group of dancers from when they wake up to when they go to work on the train. It highlighted the similarities in our lives, and shone a spotlight on the little-acknowledged fact that for a brief period of time we share experiences with strangers. Light hearted, piqued with comedic moments, it was a cute, beautifully danced piece. The dancers, Hannah Carroll, Rosalind Clarke, Alicia Fitton and Natalie Inglis, were nicely matched, playing well off each other, and their personalities were far bigger than the stage.

But the third piece was by far the shining piece of the evening.

Again choreographed by Kirsty Duncan, We are One began with Aristophanes’ speech from Plato’s Symposium. It describes a story about how people used to all be joined, and when the gods separated the people, the people always yearned for that missing other part of themselves.

This, too, is the story of We are One. Beginning with joined pairs of dancers, each pair in a different colour, each one paired in a different way, the piece takes us through the moment of separation. And then we watch these dancers portray with intense emotion the feeling of being alone and yearning. And what happens when the pairs find each other again.

But the reason that this piece is masterful is far bigger than its choreography. Yes it was part of the story and the evocation of that story. Yes it was in the performance. But nothing else compared even slightly to the subtle layering that 80% – maybe more! – of the audience would have totally missed.

We are one is the title and the story. But the thing your average punter would have missed is that much of the music in this piece is by the string ensemble Apocalyptica, a group that only plays music by metal bands. The pieces chosen for this were Apocalyptica’s interpretations of works by Metallica.

Only one of my companions picked this up, and she had the same reaction to this work that I did.

When the bodies were separated and yearning, those of us who know the works of Metallica were fairly literally rendered in twain. My heart was broken by this work, and broken, and broken again. And by the end I was in so many pieces that the reconvening of souls was indescribable. It was light, blissful, and relieving. I celebrated, I felt the joy.

When the dancers were newly separated and trying to understand what was missing, I heard One playing in my mind:

I can’t remember anything
Can’t tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel the scream
This terrible silence stops me…

When the dancers were trying desperately to find the missing pieces of themselves, blindly fitting themselves to the wrong colours and not understanding why it didn’t work, before finding the sparks of connection, I heard the lyrics to Nothing else matters:

So close, no matter how far
Couldn’t be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters…

It was truly powerful. Of course, also intensely personal. Nobody else heard those lyrics. I did, because I’m a fan of both Apocalyptica and of Metallica. I was listening to Metallica when I turned up in my car before the show – loudly. Maybe it was destined.

Kirsty managed to tie the narrative, to the structure; the title to the narrative; the emotion to the music; the music to the assumed knowledge of the lyrics; the meaning to the dance.

In all honesty, it had me so enraptured that I was worried I was going to have my makeup streaming down my face. If I saw it again, I’d want to sit within a metre of the front of the stage, so that my entire being is taken up with this work.

It was so perfectly woven that I went and found the choreographer in the interval and hugged her, and thanked her for creating something so powerful, with so many interconnected and hidden layers of meaning. The twinkle in Kirsty’s eye told me that my experience, every piece of it, had been crafted. That’s a huge indication of the capacity of this choreographer to get her hands inside her audience’s souls.

And after that magnificence, Katrina Lazaroff’s piece felt flat and derivative. It’s not popular to say not-glowing things about choreographers of the standing of Lazaroff. But I’m not a critic to stand on ceremony.

Lazaroff’s piece wasn’t a patch on the design of Duncan’s work.

While it was a piece about vulnerability, and while the dancers actually revealed their own vulnerabilities during the work, to illustrate how we hide behind confidence in order to be good, great, strong, the depth was missing.

Plus, the structure reminded me so much of Daniel Jaber’s work that I actually struggled to get past it. I would rather see Jaber’s style in his choreography, and not such strong flavours of it elsewhere. The dancers, to their enormous credit, are so fabulously talented that they really brought their own colour to the work, and their mindful attention to the detail is what made the piece work. It wasn’t the choreographer’s attention.

People loved it. I’m not people. The performance was on point and the company should rightly be proud of what they brought to it and what they achieved in such a lengthy work. But that’s all that it is. Lazaroff’s piece felt too long, that parts of it were over-done, over-emphasised, and would have been better dispensed with.

I am still enraptured by Duncan’s piece, I won’t lie. Where Lazaroff’s work strived to lay bare vulnerabilities, it did so in an absolutely one-dimension and unconvincing way. Duncan took a real question and gave it depth, shape, feeling. Every single element was there on purpose. I can’t say that about Lazaroff’s work, which is a bit of a shame.

Illuminate 2015 is only one for one more night. Go and see it. If like me you enjoyed it and were enraptured by only one piece, then your money has been well spent.

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