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The Zone

Nerida Dickinson

A celebration of the human form, depicting the triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
The Zone

Image by Stefan Gosatti.

Co3 confirms its status as Western Australia’s flagship contemporary dance company, in Raewyn Hill’s latest spectacular main stage production. Based on the observation that large-scale disaster can bring communities and individuals together, a combination of movement, sound and light delivers extremes and elicits deep emotional responses.

Through this most ephemeral of artforms, each moment creating a new image which then flows seamlessly into the next moment’s form with assured movement, The Zone is exemplary in that each and every second of choreography down to the facial expression of each performer stays essential, focussed and coherent, responding to crisis with a range of human responses as the work progresses.

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The dancers work together as a tight ensemble, pouring onto stage in a demonstration of the viscosity of the human form. Using the entire cohort for a sense of chaos, cohesion, devastation and large scale devastation, each individual dancer is precisely timed and positioned, throwing themselves across the stage in response to unseen, unfelt events. The whirling, muttering and chanting creates moods that shift and change rapidly. Small groups present intimate vignettes of consolation, rescue and compassion, employing restrained expressions and stillness as well as displays of understated strength.

While each soloist has the presence to draw all eyes to the stage as well as the technical skill to perform compelling movement, special mention goes to Tanya Brown, a City of Perth Developing Artist who has recently joined Co3. With such assurance displayed so early in her career, Brown will hopefully bring great things in future. More established performers in Associate Artist Ella-Rose Trew and Guest Artist Andrew Searle demonstrate their capabilities with leading roles in small groups, holding attention with their personal presence as well as controlled physicality. Solo or foregrounded displays from Katherine Gurr and Mitch Harvey are memorable highlights, demonstrating personal passion and skill as well as providing respite from the high drama of the emotive massed group scenes.

The music, composed and performed live by Eden Mulholland, is dynamically responsive and sympathetic as dramatic themes unfold. Pacing across his own platform along the front of the stage, Mulholland skilfully layers strings, vocals and keyboards until he becomes a chorus in himself, marking near sacred moments as dancers lose themselves in quasi-liturgical expression. Mark Howett’s lighting design ranges from producing stark monochromatic depictions of black costumes against a white wall, to a sense of overwhelming catastrophe, fire, explosion, to a new dawn with the fresh light of hope and morning in the wake of desperate bids for survival. Dancers in their flowing costumes, conceptualised by Hill with form-fitted torsos and outsized skirts, depict universal humanity, forming shapes and enhancing the fluidity of their controlled movements.

Underlying and framing the entire work is Satoshi Okada’s compelling stage design, a simple-seeming exercise in classic straight-line perspective that allows performers to create scenes and movement beyond a vast expanse of stage. Innovative stage entries through styled gaps in the walls are used to extend the sense of flow and fluidity that marks the solo performances, by slowly dripping black clad forms on and off stage in a display that seems so natural until you consider the strength and skill required to create such calm defiance of gravity.

Closing with a reminder of the hallmark acrobatic physicality of Co3 as a company, dancers celebrate their release from adversity by demonstrating impressive gymnastic vitality. Hill delivers another fiercely distinct spectacular that combines all elements of design as well as the artists’ dance skills to amaze, delight and astonish audiences.

5 stars out of 5

The Zone
Concept and Direction: Raewyn Hill
Set Design: Satoshi Okada
Composer and Sound Design: Eden Mulholland
Lighting Design: Mark Howett
Costume Concept: Raewyn Hill
Costume Construction: Cherie Hewson
Dance Director: Erynne Mulholland
Production Manager: Michael Maclean
Created with and performed by Andrew Searle, Ella-Rose Trew, Zachary Lopez, Talitha Maslin, Katherine Gurr, Mitch Harvey, Russell Thorpe, Zoe Wozniak, Tanya Brown, Antonio Rinaldi and Scott Galbraith

Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA
7 – 16 September 2017

 
What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Nerida Dickinson is a writer with an interest in the arts. Previously based in Melbourne and Manchester, she is observing the growth of Perth's arts sector with interest.

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