REVIEW | IN HOUSE, ‘refreshingly honest’ – Dance Australia

7 September 2021

The creative sparks at the beginning of a choreographic process are exhilarating to witness, yet they are seldom seen by the public. An exception to this is IN HOUSE, curated by Artistic Director Raewyn Hill as part of Co3 Contemporary Dance’s inaugural Pathways Program. In the intimacy of a dark studio space, five Western Australian independent dance makers bravely showcase concepts for new choreographic works after only 40 hours of rehearsal time. The resulting simplicity of the season is quietly captivating.

Alluding to T.S. Eliot’s poem of the same name, Wasteland, choreographed by Talitha Maslin, begins the evening. “The Last Dive of David Shaw” by We Lost The Sea, is a haunting choice of musical accompaniment; the struggled breathing of a drowned deep-cave diver chillingly humanises the concept of deforestation explored in the work. Even so, the four compelling dancers (Sarah Chaffey, Brent Rollins, Nathan Turtur and Isabel Wartmann) appear anything but human; their intertwining bodies casting shadows in the floodlights, like ghosts of sea anemones, or alien-like fungi sprouting from the forest floor.

Aimee Smith’s Once Everything Burns to the Ground explores the destructive, creative and life-giving power of fire through the female performance of that energy. With a hand-held red light, dancers Ella-Rose Trew and Laura Boynes create a collage of flaming vignettes. Bewitchingly cinematic, I can imagine these scenes would also be very effective in dance film. With the wild abandon of escaping embers, surprising moments of explosive movement bring a welcome extra layer of texture to the work.

Chrome, created and performed by Sarah Chaffey, is a unique amalgam of contemporary and pole dance. Featuring evocative sound-design by emerging composer Sophia Hansen-Knarhoi, the work is an impressive display of athleticism, strength and theatrical flair.

With dramaturgical support from Daley Rangi (Te Āti Awa), Chaffey cleverly weaves storytelling into her choreography, speaking of the joy, empowerment, stigma and trauma that has pervaded pole dancing history. It is witty, pointed and infused with realness that fosters a genuine connection between audience and performer.

For Four is a poignant reflection on the transformative experiences of motherhood on an artist. Choreographer Ella-Rose Trew sits in the audience, and gently “speaks the dance that did not happen how she imagined”. Evidently a gifted writer, she reads aloud her poetry that explains how the challenges of illness in her young family during the rehearsal period prevented her from creating a physical dance work for IN HOUSE. Trew’s vulnerability is deeply moving. Her words speak volumes, and dance for themselves.

The final offering of the season, The Interface, questions what identity means in connection to tradition. Choreographer and dancer May Greenberg’s alluring performance delivers technical brilliance punctuated by skilful pirouettes that traverse in and around sparkling crystal glasses positioned on the floor. Singing the biblical psalm “Mi Ha’ish” in Hebrew, her voice resonates with a rich maturity, and pulls us closer to the complexities and confusions of cultural heritage. Greenberg’s interest in “misunderstood histories” is intriguing, as is her use of symbolism through props, and it will be interesting to see where she takes future iterations of the work.

I have always relished the experience of witnessing the very beginnings of contemporary dance works. The simmering of new ideas is inspiring, and the rawness of explorative movement not yet lost to polished perfection is refreshingly honest. I eagerly look forward to Co3’s annual IN HOUSE showings in the years to come.