Wednesday, 29 January 2014

GUEST POST: Kristian Pellissier tackles Dido and Aeneas at Sydney Festival

Dido and Aeneas. Photo: Jamie Williams. Courtesy of Sydney Festival.
Baroque art is known for its excesses: an explosion of detail and clarity. In Dido and Aeneas, Sasha Waltz & Guests have created a work that could be best described as Baroque in its broadest sense, creating a discordant but vivid visual explosion.
Dido and Aeneas takes as its starting point the late seventeenth century English Baroque opera by Henry Purcell – a dramatic work on love, gods and tragedy that implies emotion on a grand scale. Any further elaboration on the narrative however is almost redundant, as Sasha’s interpretation is a deconstruction of the relationships expressed through voice, movement and imagery. Passages are reinterpreted, expanded upon and explored through a myriad of props and reconfigurations of performers. Singers and dancers shift between more traditional divisions to perform in a way that could be more closely likened to musical theatre.
Dido and Aeneas. Photo: Jamie Williams. Courtesy of Sydney Festival.
The strength of Dido and Aeneas lies in this blurring of performer roles, the smooth choreographic transitions between vignettes and the occasionally striking imagery. Performers float through a tank filled with water, bounce and swoop in a contraption somewhere between a baby mobile and a bungy, and throw props around the stage in gleeful abandon. Individual performers melt into and out of focus in a way that implies but never clearly defines relationships. Single characters appear in multiple manifestations, with at least two dancers and a singer performing the character of Dido. This choreographic choice alone renders the narrative almost impenetrable.
While successful visually and interesting structurally, the work lacks a cohesion that allows for all the disparate parts to amount to something greater. Dido’s Lament, the emotional climax of the work, is an innovative moment but misses the opportunity to connect due to the lack of a clear narrative arc.
Dido and Aeneas. Photo: Jamie Williams. Courtesy of Sydney Festival.
While exposure to this kind of work is invaluable to the development of artistic practice and discussion, the lack of a clear entry point make it both a challenging programming choice and an interesting means of introducing Sasha Waltz to Sydney audiences. Those willing to explore the boundaries of dance or opera will find that this work provides some interesting food for thought. The rest may find themselves asking: ‘Where’s Dido?”.
Kristian currently works as a dancer, dance teacher, adjudicator and Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts.

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Sunday, 26 January 2014

Short + Sweet Dance Company A

Glassica. Photo: Keziah Knight. Courtesy Short + Sweet Festival.
The opening night of Short + Sweet Dance combined ten diverse and vastly different performances, each ten minutes in duration.
MEETING POINT, choreographed and performed by Lucky Lartey with Kenneth Tusubira, was a stunning display of movement and rhythm. The play of light and shadow on the bodies of the two performers was as much a part of the work as the music and actions. Playing out on stage the internal workings of the dancers mind, MEETING POINT is a beautiful study of life and movement.
Read the full article on the AU review.
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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Short + Sweet Cabaret week two

Lady Cool, Conversations with my Shrink - so many problems so little time. Photo: Diana Popvska. Courtesy of Short + Sweet.

A Funeral Megamix, an astronaut with a broken space ship, an educational striptease and a new political party - it's just another night at Short + Sweet Cabaret. 

There's something comically endearing about Kate Walder's character Sally in Lost in Space as she finds herself stranded with a "fucked" space ship. She consults a Rabbi and a Frenchman, finally realising that by singing to the ship it will fix itself. Walder demonstrated an impressive, strong chest voice, I wish we'd heard more of it. Awkward silences punctuate the performance serving to increase the humour and demonstrate a level of self assurance as a performer. Walder is naturally comedic.  

Kate Walder, Lost in SpaceConversations with my Shrink - so many problems so little time. Photo: Diana Popvska. Courtesy of Short + Sweet.

Lockout by Emma Marie Davis started strong, an usher moves through the crowd lamenting that being an usher is a great job despite the fact that she saw Wicked 68 times. She explains to a disgruntled customer that as he is late he's locked out but as she knows all the scenes she can fill him in. It all ran like very humorous clockwork until the end where the performance stopped abruptly and I'm not entirely sure if that's how it was meant to play out. This is a shame as vocally Davis was a standout and conceptually it was clever and entertaining.   

Emma Marie Davis, Lockout. Photo: Diana Popvska. Courtesy of Short + Sweet.

It was all smooth tunes and neurosis with Lady Cool and Conversations with my Shrink - so many problems so little time. But it's not drugs or alcohol that's got this 1950's styled diva conflicted - it's love. As the voice of her shrink fills the space we learn of her affection for Ian Thorpe and love for vegans. Very entertaining and witty lyrics had the crowd cheering and despite all her hardships Lady Cool never lost her poise and even managed a costume change. Both hilarious and talented, Lady Cool brings new meaning to the words love-sick.

Rachael Thompson, Choose Your Own Cabaret. Photo: Diana Popvska. Courtesy of Short + Sweet. 

While all the acts presented talented vocal styling, arguably the strongest performance was Rachael Thompson Choose Your Own Cabaret. Asking the crowd what they would prefer - a song about love or a song about shopping - the audience chose shopping and thus began a tragic tale of shopping for a fry pan at David Jones. Witty and lyrically brilliant, Thompson's ten minutes concluded with a beautiful song about a time before 50,000 choices, the innocence of childhood and the beauty of a Never Never Land. Her's is a voice that over powers and surrounds you, it overwhelms and captivates. Exactly what cabaret should be.           
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Saturday, 18 January 2014

2014 Benalla Nude Art Prize call for entries


Applications are now open for the 2014 Benalla Nude Art Prize.

Benalla Nude is an award for a work depicting a naked human figure as subject matter.

First prize is valued at $50,000 and entries close 5pm, Friday 21 February.

Entry forms can be downloaded from their website.
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Short + Sweet Theatre week one

Advanced. Photo: Sylvi Soe - Third Tree Creatives
"We can do anything we want, we're in theatre" - spoken in Reading Lamouche, first play off the ranks at the theatre component of Short + Sweet festival, set the stage for an evening of inventive and at times not so inventive theatre.

Read the full article on the AU review.
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Short + Sweet Cabaret week one

Harry + Liv. Photo: Diana Popovska

It's no small ask to impress an audience in ten minutes but that's what the Short + Sweet festival demands. The launch of the Cabaret component of the festival began with WAGS (Alison Crew, Angela Blake, Deanna Ezrol, Bec Piplica), a clever and witty comment on how the sporting industry if so often more about the women than the men they hang off. Naturally, with a lineup of thirteen very different acts, the standard and quality varied greatly. 

Read the full article on the AU review.
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Short + Sweet Program Launch Event


The Short+Sweet Festival is a global festival that specialises in presenting 10 minute productions across dance, theatre, musical theatre and cabaret. The launch of the 2014 season, to be held in January, was a humble affair in the courtyard of the Seymour Centre with vegetarian wraps hand made by the Theatre Director and entertainment by Rosslyn Wythes.

Read the full article on the AU review.
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