REVIEW | IN HOUSE, ‘a diverse palette of dance artistry’ – ArtsHub

7 Sep 2021

Since 2014, Co3 Contemporary Dance led by Artistic Director Raewyn Hill has delivered a wide range of projects and productions supporting WA dancers in myriad ways. Yet the company’s inaugural IN HOUSE studio season, which presents a series of short works in progress by five WA choreographers, marks Co3’s first major chance to bring WA dance makers (as well as dancers) into their fold.

The result reveals a diverse palette of dance artistry with a bent towards the female experience.

To open the show, choreographer Talitha Maslin presents her work Wasteland as an ode to nature in peril. She reads parts of T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name (‘…the roots that clutch, what branches grow…’) and as her four dancers – two male and two female – start to turn and slide they embody the struggling roots and branches of Eliot’s prose.

In various slow moving sequences performers Nathan Turtur, Brent Rollins, Isabel Wartmann and Sarah Chaffey are remarkable as Maslin’s curdling and crumbling undergrowth forms. So far, Wasteland seems a wondrous and aching reminder of environmental collapses we’re still failing to see.

There are more hidden worlds in motion in choreographer Aimee Smith’s work Once Everything Burns to the Ground. Smith has been away from the studio for the past six years, but is the most experienced artist on the bill, and it shows. Her burgeoning work around ideas of fire (as both destruction and rebirth) is already designed with structural flair and filled with cyclical draws.

Her two performers – Laura Boynes and Ella Rose Trew – are simply exquisite as they trace through Smith’s beautifully darkened lighting states. Their bodies are pillars of expert control, but sometimes their arms fly loose like strips of paper in the wind. All three artists here are poised and on target, and this work is an exciting prospect to build to something more.

Then as the lights come up, two stage hands move in. They wheel in a tall, slim pole on a small black base, and as it stands there alone our minds wonder what’s next. Is it pole dancing? Could it be…?

As the performance, Chrome, begins, dancer/choreographer Sarah Chaffey proves pole dancing is more than some believe it to be. As she circles and spirals she’s a whirlwind of strength, but her script is counterbalanced by vulnerability and a political edge. It’s an interesting solo work by a female artist and makes me wonder where it could go next (could more artists: male, female, transgender be involved?). Overall, it seems to have potential with plenty more to explore.

By contrast, Ella Rose Trew’s work lands as a touching cross generational homage to mothers who are also dancers, and is a very personal view on what it means to be a new mother and artist-dancer. It’s a poetic statement with diary entries laid bare, but overall it feels like an insular non-starter (which I realise is also a large part of its point).

Finally, May Greenberg’s solo The Interface is an intimate journey sweeping through tradition and the new. She enters half-collapsed and heaving through the space carrying a small glass that chinks with others as she moves. She then reaches to the sky and sings a soulful Jewish song in plaintive tones. As a dancer Greenberg is enigmatic and completely commands the space, but ultimately (and understandingly), these ideas are still searching for clear voice.

Overall, this new season supporting WA choreographers to develop new works feels like an important addition to the Co3 calendar and has hopefully opened a door to more dance-maker pathways, and to more elegant seasons for glimpses of their journeys.

3½ stars out of 5 

Jo Pickup