A proud, potent and poignant piece of artistry that combines dance, song, monologue and athleticism with projections is the highlight of DanceX Part III.
Photos by Rainee Lantry
I speak of Gudirr Gudirr by Marrugeku, which contains truth-telling about the history of indigenous Australians from the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
To say what is acted out is not pretty is an understatement.
There is much delivered that is shameful regarding the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Asian immigrants and their mixed race descendants.
That is brought into sharp focus by performer Dalisa Pigram, who is simply extraordinary.
She is rightfully indignant as she opens her heart and soul.
The concept is hers and Patrick Dodson’s, the latter of whom is also cultural adviser.
Pigram has also choreographed the work – which features a fishing net hung from the ceiling as a most utilitarian prop – alongside director Koen Augustijnen.
Sixty-two minutes long, Gudirr Gudirr shines a light on a broken past, a fragile present and an uncertain future.
It contains coarse language, depictions of violence and references to self-harm and youth suicide.
It is the most powerful offering in the masterful three-part DanceX program.
Fittingly, it closes the program and results in a much-deserved standing ovation.
DanceX Part III starts with a bold contribution from Australian Dance Theatre, titled The Third.
Conceived, choreographed and directed by Daniel Riley, it was commissioned for the 2021 RISING festival in Melbourne.
It explores the relationship between the Western and First Nations’ archives, each built on differing ideologies.
It looks at the body as an archive.
The work begins spectacularly as shards of light appear like a train rushing past a station as we make out two performers, initially separated and then in sync.
As the 31-minute piece evolves, they are joined by four others in various combinations.
The music, composed by James Howard is multi-textured: thumping, whirring, chanting, knocking and pinging, as movement is symbiotic and, at times, frenzied.
Chunky Move impresses with the Star Wars-like AB_TA_Response, reimagining components of Antony Hamilton’s major 2019 work Token Armies.
In the latter, a movement language was constructed from the dialogue between humans and material objects, as it is here.
Over 12 minutes, what appear to be storm troopers interact with a robot, operated by a darkened figure.
The palate is silver and black as the music thumps. Is it cooperation or confrontation?
The Australian Ballet follows with two pieces.
First up, a delightful six-minute duet, a meeting of minds between two agile performers, a man and a woman.
Skilfully crafted by Alice Topp, with a score by Luke Howard, Solstice showcases flexibility and care.
Gold costuming and a “screechy” soundscape from a string quartet on stage feature in Imposter, an anarchic nine-minute journey involving 14 dancers.
All are regarded as puppets and puppeteers who fracture formal configurations and yet ultimately play with precision.
Choreographed by Lucas Jervies, with music by Matthew Hindson, it is a piece about comparison and high achievement.
High achievement, too, has been the hallmark of a diverse program of entertainment and engagement that has characterised DanceX at Arts Centre Melbourne.
Part I – which ran from 20th to 22nd October – involved The Australian Ballet, Lucy Guerin Inc, Sydney Dance Company and Bangarra Dance Theatre.
Part II – from 25th to 28th October – drew from The Australian Ballet, Queensland Ballet and Karul Projects.
Part III is on until 1st November.
Judging by the reaction from patrons to the cavalcade of talent and creativity on display, more is warranted.