Review: NOISE, North Australian Festival of Arts (Townsville QLD)

Dancenorth’s vibrant collaboration combines a dance troupe with 100 drums.
Review: NOISE, North Australian Festival of Arts (Townsville QLD)

Image: North Australian Festival of Arts.

In the last four years, Townsville’s Dancenorth has notched up enormous success. This regionally-based company is certainly punching well above its weight – yet despite its growing profile, it has never lost sight of its community roots.

Dancenorth’s recent success on both national and international stages has meant that the company has had less opportunity to perform locally. But this changed last week when its latest production NOISE was presented as part of the inaugural North Australian Arts Festival (NAFA) to an estimated audience of 6000 people.

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Presented outdoors, NOISE is a spectacular, gripping and vibrant production with the Townsville drumming community. It’s the result of a six-month collaboration between Dancenorth’s Kyle Page and Amber Haines and local composer and drum artist Costa Hagiaglou.

The combination of contemporary dance with drumming evoked a return to the primeval origins of dance where tribal dancers were driven – often uncontrollably – to move to the hypnotic rhythms produced by the drummers. In NOISE, the local drummers range from beginners who have never struck a tightskin before to the extremely experienced, and the piece reveals Aboriginal, Indian, North African and even syncopated jazz influences. Indeed, the drummers represent the very pulse of the work.

The dancers perform in front of 100 drummers on a simple black dais, their scarlet costumes standing in contrast with the background. The choreography showed the hand of Page and Haines, with their customary fluidity interspersed with jerky movements dictated by the angular rhythms of the music. The dancers’ moves not only complemented the persuasive score but also set many limbs moving in the audience.

While this was first and foremost an ensemble piece for both musicians and dancers, particularly magnetic were the performances of dancer Samantha Hines – whose striking solo showed her significant stage presence and heralded a segment in which each dancer displayed their individual mettle – as well as solo drummer/composer Costa Hagiaglou and drummer Alex Salvador.

NOISE has enormous possibilities for further development as a production. I would like to see its 16-minute length extended to 30 minutes, but the possibilities are endless. The project is such that it can be easily reproduced in different communities and configurations. The scale of the production will only be limited by imagination.

The NAFA performance offered a glorious starting point for a project which we will doubtless see duplicated in many places and formats.

4.5 stars out of 5 ★★★★☆

Dancenorth’s Noise
Northern Australia Festival of the Arts
Created by Kyle Page and Amber Haines
Music composed by Costa Hagiaglou
31 July-3 August 2019
Strand Park, Townsville, QLD

Free admission

Trevor Keeling

Thursday 8 August, 2019

About the author

Trevor Keeling has been involved in the arts and creative industries for 40 years in Australia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. He has been an actor, theatre director, journalist and critic, publisher, broadcaster, music festival director, event manager and arts administrator.

Since coming to Australia in 1991, he appeared in numerous productions in Adelaide, and was Festival Director of the Glenelg Jazz Festival for six years. He was General Manager of Dancenorth in Townsville (2005-2006 and 2011-2014) and for three years was CEO of Mirndiyan Gunana Aboriginal Corporation, which included managing the world-renowned Indigenous Mornington Island Dancers.

He has worked in urban, regional and remote environments in Australia and has a particular focus on regional arts and the connection to community.