Review: Neon, DRILL (TAS)

An ambitious and logistically intricate work from the Hobart-based youth dance company.
Review: Neon, DRILL (TAS)

Performers from DRILL youth dance company in NEON. Photo: Joshua Lowe.

The coordination alone is mind-boggling.

Three dance works, each subdivided into five sections, and the lot cycled three times for a tripartite audience. The 17 dancers do not form three discrete ensembles; rather, like atoms caught-up in a volatile and intensifying chemical reaction, they constantly split and regroup across the sections and works. All is continuous, delivered at pace, and unpredictable.


The complexities of cast deployment are amplified by the simultaneous, finely coordinated use of multiple spaces within a labyrinthine site, and the logistics of traffic management of three rapidly moving groups of audience. The show utilises three separate recorded scores, fed to cast and audience via headphones, and all synchronised with detailed, wireless lighting design.

Hat-tip to technical manager, Christopher Payne. Logistically Neon is triumphant even before we address the work itself.

Hobart youth dance company DRILL stages Neon in the hallways, gleaming science labs and darkened workshops of Bayview Secondary College. Neon features commissioned scores by young Tasmanian composers, recorded by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Each work takes as its starting point a chemical element: Carbon, Lithium, Krypton.

The basis of all known life, carbon forms strong, multiple bonds with other atoms, and in the first section, choreographer Joshua Lowe explores proximity, contact and disconnect. In technically challenging lifts, the young dancers project the impression of giving their weight and allowing themselves to be manipulated. This sometimes aggressive manipulation contrasts with the lyrical intimacy of the work. The dancers belie their youth in this sophisticated, restrained work.

Lithium, with its broad range of uses from rechargeable batteries to psychiatric medication, inspires choreographer Jaala Jensen to make surprising and imaginative choices of space. Thus she conjures a proscenium arch at the T intersection of two broad hallways, creating a spontaneous “stage” for a witty sequence of passing parades. Elsewhere, we view the work through doorways, down halls, and behind obscured windows, placing the audience in an active, sometimes intrusive, relationship to the dancers. Quirky movement and articulating limbs spiralling off floors and rebounding off walls characterise Lithium. It burns with humour, rage, urgency and energy.

Angela Barnard’s work is the most theatrical of the three. The musical score makes fine use of brass, which Barnard seizes upon in Jerome Robbins-esque moments. Krypton being a gas used in fluorescent and laser lighting, the work makes extensive use of lasers. Transference and investigation of self and other are key at macro and micro levels of this work. Intriguingly, as well as being the most theatrical, this is also the most ‘scientific’ work, overtly drawing together the evening’s twin muses of Terpsichore and Thalia.

This is artful, skilled, ambitious work from a small, diligent and impressive company.

Artistic Director: Joshua Lowe
Choreographers: Joshua Lowe (Carbon), Angela Barnard (Krypton), Jaala Jensen (Lithium)
Jonathan Dieckfoss (Carbon), Rhys Gray (Krypton) & Claire Farrell (Lithium)
Lighting Designer: Christopher Payne
Costume Designer: Thomas Higgs
14-17 August 2019
Bayview Secondary College, Rokeby TAS
Tickets $18-$27

Robert Jarman

Tuesday 20 August, 2019

About the author

Robert Jarman is a freelance director, performer, writer and designer based in Hobart, Tasmania.