Co3 makes stunning debut

From The West.

Striding towards the theatre I felt a bubble of anticipation rising inside me. In the foyer I heard voices echoing my sentiments. We were about to see WA’s new flagship contemporary dance company, Co3, open its first season — and it felt momentous.

There was so much expectation on the shoulders of Co3 artistic director Raewyn Hill. And she’s come up with the goods in re:Loaded 2015.

The program begins in the foyer with Brooke Leeder’s Glimpse, an aptly named work providing a glimpse of Co3’s youth ensemble, about which more later. Then it’s into the theatre for Larissa McGowan’s Transducer.

McGowan is best known for her work with Australian Dance Theatre and the influence of that company’s artistic director, Garry Stewart, is apparent in Transducer. Created in 2012 for Tasdance, Transducer’s use of bodily action to animate industrial sound has a distinctly Stewart flavour, as does its violent physicality.

Featuring six dancers clad in tight-fitting orange, which pops against a white background, Transducer cycles through ensemble work, one- on-one confrontations and solos.

Characterised by an aesthetic that is at once animalistic and robotic, Transducer requires both a physical and emotional aggression and all six dancers provided it in spades. Katherine Gurr was the stand-out, her final solo a maelstrom of manic activity and silent diatribes.

Whilst at times Transducer lacks variation of dynamic, overall it’s a compelling work.

Next up, Gavin Webber’s What’s Left, created for Co3, left me perplexed, although his program notes shed some light. Inspired by Naomi Klein’s climate-change book This Changes Everything, Webber explains that the work is not about this issue per se, but about “the emotions that surround it”.

Certainly this work for three dancers captures feelings of frustration, anger and grief. In particular, the opening solo, which features a woman (Talitha Maslin) waving hopefully, then anxiously, then desperately, is poignant. Two male dancers (Zachary Lopez and guest artist Andrew Searle) wrestle amongst a forest of precariously balanced cylinders, unable to find resolution. The wild abandon of Lopez, Maslin and Searle was the highlight of this work.

Although credited as separate works, Co:Youth Ensemble’s Toros and Co3’s Carnivale, both by Hill, feel like one. For those who saw Link Dance Company’s Shanghai Bolero triptych last week, the question is: how many renditions of Ravel’s Bolero can Perth take? It’s a credit to Hill that hearing the music a fourth time in its original state and a fifth, reworked by composer Eden Mulholland, didn’t feel like overkill.

In keeping with the tradition of forebear Steps Youth Dance Company, Co:Youth Ensemble demonstrated absolute professionalism. Ravel’s Bolero contains few musical cues — it’s vital that concentration doesn’t slip for a moment. The choreography is repetitive and uniform — no room for error. Spiralling, lunging, rolling and marching, 50-odd young dancers, aged 8-20, executed Toros beautifully.

For the nine Co3 dancers, Carnivale, performed entirely in unison, is also unforgiving. Using similar motifs, the work is unrelenting as the dancers move ceaselessly through elongated lunges, tumbling rolls and spirals.

Dressed smartly in black, there’s a super-hero quality to the dancers; the loose flowing fabric of trousers and skirts mimicking the lines of swirling capes as they spin in and out of the floor. It’s a challenge to fitness and by the end some of the dancers were beginning to flag. Leading the group, however, Searle demonstrated incredible stamina, as did the unflinching Gurr.

Hill’s debut program for Co3 showcases the versatility of her dancers and also her own artistic diversity.

The audience on opening night was ecstatic. Our State flagship company is in capable hands.