Review By Lisa Lanzi
And… another Festival lights up Adelaide, this time for younger people. DreamBIG (formerly The Come Out Festival) has graced the Adelaide calendar since 1974. Many of the local arts luminaries can tell you how they recall their formative creative experiences as young audience members.
Internationally renowned Shaun Parker & Company joined the program for the BIG Family Weekend (after sold-out school performances) to present part of their Found Objects set outdoors on the re-imagined Festival Plaza amidst the odd shower of rain and some very appreciative audiences. Mildura-born, multi-talented Parker danced with Australian Dance Theatre here during Meryl Tankard’s tenure and went on to perform with many other companies across Australia.
His first choreography, Spin, begins with a solo performer and a basketball. They are joined by three other dancers and all move with utmost precision and fluidity, the ball becoming a cheeky fifth character and the team exploring many movement possibilities. The timing, ball control, and playful passing is compelling and sometimes you simply cannot quite work out how the complex manipulations work; of course superb ensemble cooperation is key. The contemporary movement language seamlessly melds with street dance styles alongside Nick Wales ambient soundscape, and this movement blend is continued through the three works in the programme.
Almost as joyous as viewing the performance was observing the young people (and their caregivers) as they became absorbed in the fantasy and were stunned by the artistry and technique. It is beyond important to grant children access to a variety of performing arts experiences from a young age, even the pre-language stage. Dance and music are inherent gifts of our genetic heritage, existing before humans used spoken language, and children are instinctually able to connect to these artforms. Even alongside the distractions of an outdoor venue, engagement with the Company was for the most part intense and wonderful.
Axle is a surprisingly tender duet between a parkour performer and a small remote-control car, and a total audience pleaser. Accompanied by a fabulous score from Nick Wales, the dancer and the car negotiate some tense moments of misunderstanding, comic ‘chases’, and curious to-ing and fro-ing, until the two discover that friendship is the offer, not menace. As human and mechanical begin to understand and appreciate each other, we watch delightful and acrobatic encounters, eliciting gentle laughter and wonder from the audience.
The final work for this Adelaide season is Hover, a 20 minute choreography for five dancers on hoverboards, although only four appeared at the performance I saw. The theme for this work seemed to be love, and yes, perhaps the slightly ‘Hallmark’ version. Using some Nick Wales music again but also a set of love songs from the likes of Lionel Richie, The Turtles, The Backstreet Boys and more, the dancers gracefully wheeled around the stage space. As they adroitly zoomed and pirouetted upon their boards, artful gesturing interpreted the words of the love songs. Although the movement and floor patterns were hypnotically pleasing, I think the length and repetitive nature of the work didn’t set well with all the DreamBIG audience, some choosing to leave at about half way through. Such is the skill and supreme physicality of these dancers though, even standing still, or balancing on the hoverboards, they are very watchable. Libby Montilla, Samuel Beazley, Olivia Hadley, Romain Hassanin and Joel Fenton are extraordinary physical technicians and as performers their focus and presence, even in the outdoor setting, was superb.
The charm and pure joy of Found Objects was palpable and engaging. If Shaun Parker and Company are in your neighbourhood, they are a must see.