Drawn spell­bound into Co3’s zone

The West Australian - - ARTS -

DANCE The Zone Co3

Heath Ledger The­atre 9 Septem­ber RE­VIEW: NINA LEVY

Pa­per white walls con­verge to a point up­stage from which puffs of smoke em­anate. Abruptly the lights brighten and lay­ers of sound fill the space, res­onat­ing through our bod­ies. Into the hy­per-lit void slither black-clad bod­ies, emerg­ing from hith­erto un­no­ticed cracks in the walls. Wrapped in sound and light, we are, lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively, in The Zone.

For those who have fol­lowed Co3 since its 2015 de­but, The Zone feels like a com­ing-of-age for our State’s flag­ship con­tem­po­rary dance com­pany. Artis­tic di­rec­tor Raewyn Hill has drawn to­gether an out­stand­ing team of artis­tic col­lab­o­ra­tors. And so, while the theme — ex­am­in­ing the power of hu­man­ity to bond to­gether in times of cri­sis — is not wildly orig­i­nal, ev­ery cre­ative el­e­ment of this work is in­tri­cately wo­ven to­gether to make a trans­form­ing whole; in­no­va­tive and so­phis­ti­cated.

Eleven dancers seep in and out of the set’s per­me­able walls, clev­erly de­signed by Ja­panese ar­chi­tect Satoshi Okada. The chore­og­ra­phy is in­tensely phys­i­cal, as is Hill’s wont. Over 60 min­utes the dancers move hard and sweat hard — and their ex­hil­a­ra­tion is con­ta­gious.

It takes place against a rich melee of live and recorded sound, com­posed (and per­formed here) by mu­si­cian Eden Mul­hol­land. On gui­tar, pi­ano and vo­cals, Mul­hol­land’s per­for­mance — of­ten haunt­ing, oc­ca­sion­ally joy­ous — was in­tox­i­cat­ing.

It’s hard to sin­gle out high­lights. Three dancers (Zachary Lopez, An­drew Searle, Rus­sell Thorpe) roll like waves around one an­other, the long black skirts of all cast mem­bers swirling in sym­pa­thy. In pairs, trios and quar­tets, dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of dancers rip­ple with the slide of Mul­hol­land’s gui­tar strings, un­der­pinned by a heart-like beat. As one, the dancers re­peat­edly con­tract and spring in the air, backs arch­ing. One dancer (Ella-Rose Trew) plies deeply and widely, arms reach­ing and body cir­cling as though stir­ring a gi­ant pot of emo­tion. An­other dancer (Tanya Brown) per­forms a gor­geous solo of ca­su­ally step­ping leg ex­ten­sions.

Mark Howett’s light­ing is that of dawn and dusk, from sun­set or­ange to Arc­tic blue. Danc­ing shad­ows mul­ti­ply the cast.

Near the end there is just one mo­ment that doesn’t feel quite right. There is pal­pa­ble joy in the scene, which sees dancers take turns per­form­ing so­los and duets, cheered on, fla­menco style, by their rhyth­mi­cally clap­ping fel­low cast mem­bers. The stark su­per-bright light­ing, how­ever, makes the mo­ment feel over-ex­posed, dis­tanc­ing the viewer rather than invit­ing them in.

It’s not a ma­jor fault though, and, as a whole, The Zone is high-oc­tane stuff. Mul­hol­land and the 11 dancers are to be con­grat­u­lated on a cap­ti­vat­ing per­for­mance. Ku­dos to all — this is fes­ti­val-level work. Don’t miss it.

The Zone closes 16 Septem­ber.

Pic­ture: Ste­fan Gosatti

The Zone feels like a com­ing-of-age for Co3.

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