Co3: The Zone Review
Margaret Mercer, Dance Australia.
Co3 is Western Australia’s flagship contemporary dance company and The Zone, performed in 60 riveting minutes, is the strongest work the company has produced to date.
With concept and direction by Raewyn Hill (Co3’s artistic director) and movement created by Hill together with the performers, it stems from Hill’s observation that it often takes a devastating event to engender support, compassion, empathy and generosity: “I am intrigued by the idea that in a moment of natural disaster, or point of extreme pressure, a community forms where race, religion, opinion basically fall away and it is about humanity”.
The pure white set designed by architects Professor Satoshi Okada and Lucia Rocchelli is a work of art in itself. Stunning in its simplicity, two massive white walls meet upstage centre creating a triangular stage space. Invisible apertures on varying levels of the walls are the only entry and exit points to and from the stage. Professor Okada’s design revolves around illusion and perception “to create a space that would frame the zone… cage in the performers’ energy… two bare tall elements in mutual dialogue.” Lighting designer Mark Howett’s intuitive, delicate washes, shadows, stark whites and intense colours support both design and concept.
Composer, sound designer and live performer Eden Mulholland acknowledges traditional folk music as his greatest source of inspiration for The Zone’s mesmerising, phenomenal, percussive score, and musical references to Armenian choral song, Georgian folk song and Spanish Flamenco are prominent in his music. His score is delivered live, loud and visible, with Mulholland and his piano and microphone placed at the front of the auditorium on the side. Glancing at the dancers, he sings live, plays piano and guitar and strolls back and forth in front of the audience many times throughout, drawing them into the work in a non-stop, tour de force performance.
Interesting, athletic and dynamic, the five female and six male dancers are in black, long-sleeved, full length dresses with swirling skirts. The costumes create their own shapes and patterns in individual or group movement with striking images of black flowing fabric in swathes and waves, spinning and flying within the white walls.
In extreme, relentless, ever-changing motion, dancers mouth and mutter words, jumping, thumping, noisy and anguished on an often-smoky stage, and shiver and shake together in fear. Three men (Zachary Lopez, Russell Thorpe and Andrew Searle), in supported lifts, weave and fold trance-like in haunting despair. In heavy smoke, a frantic group falls and fails, screaming as they try to escape up walls before huddling together; a lengthy well-performed sequence for five dancers to a slow chant with sacrificial undertones was a little too literal to meld with the visceral, organic movement aesthetic. A beautifully conceived, slow, flat-footed circular procession brings relief before flying arms, and exuberant jumps, shouts and claps end the work in a festive, Flamenco-style gathering.
Given a standing ovation on closing night, Andrew Searle, Ella-Rose Trew, Zachary Lopez, Talitha Maslin, Katherine Gurr, Mitch Harvey, Russell Thorpe, Zoe Wozniak, Tanya Brown, Antonio Rinaldi, Scott Galbraith, take a bow.
And from a West Australian perspective, it is gratifying to see so many WAAPA graduates on stage in this production.
Image by Stefan Gosatti.