Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance

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Brisbane, February 21 – 29

Now in its fourth year, Supercell Festival of Contemporary Dance continues to evolve; this year moving its performances away from a theatre setting into the streets of Brisbane, and featuring local, interstate and overseas artists. As well as performances, including works in development by local independent artists, there were artist-led workshops with profits going directly to the artists. Apart from the workshops, all events were free.

The reach out, part of the organisers’ push for “low-carbon impacts” and a wider audience base, is in line with the Festival’s mission statement to “engage, inspire and connect audiences and artists.” I saw five of the seven scheduled performances, which were diverse in their content and location.

Shade was hard to find on a very hot afternoon in the Queen Street Mall for Mine! Sparked by proposals for mega-mines in North Queensland, this playful work explores self-centred and blinkered behaviours. The dancers of the Australian Dance Party, (Canberra’s Alison Plevey, Olivia Fyfe, Ryan Stone, Stephen Gow and Alana Stenning), in boiler suits of different bold colours, move around the concrete space carrying large buckets of Lego to a soundtrack of Devo’s “Working in a Coal Mine”. Robotic phrases of movement, often in unison, explore ideas of automation, until the buckets, once jealously guarded, are discarded and the Lego scattered across the ground. A frantic fight to claim the most pieces follows, and the carefully conceived work concludes with declarations drawing analogies between the possessive pronoun “mine” and the implied selfishness of the mining industry.

New Farm Bowls Club was the evening setting for You Don’t Know Jack + Kitty by the Gogi Dance Collective, (Gold Coast), promoted as a homage to the iconic role of lawn bowls in Australia. A good crowd had collected at the side-lines of the flood-lit green to watch performers Alicia Min Harvie, Ashleigh White, Viviane Frehner and Alicia De La Fuente.

‘You don’t know Jack + Kitty’ by Gogi Dance Collective. Photo: Jade Ellis

Musician Guy Webster begins the proceedings with witty, tongue-in-cheek public announcements about the club’s business at hand, before accompanying the action on guitar. This covers the entire green, with repeated motifs of the game’s hand signals and much bowling in all directions. Movement sections involve running and manipulating the bowls over and under the legs, the performers also weaving patterns across the green. The work finishes with a raffle draw – winners from the audience competing in a “bowl-off” with the performers. It was an entertaining end to an otherwise slightly underdeveloped work.

The tiny Bunyapa Park in West End was another evening’s site for two short solo works – Wakka Wakka and Kombumerri choreographer Katina Olsen’s Namu Nunar, and re-Membering by Polish artist Aleksandra Borys. Olsen first encourages the audience seated around her to connect to land and sky, by plunging their hands into the lush grass. To a soundscape of insect noises, she then moves with slow, very grounded movement, unfolding from a curled-up position in the centre of the space, with a slow, almost hypnotic weaving of the arms and upper body.

Courtney Scheu's 'Plastic Belly'. Photo: Ivan Trigo Miras
Courtney Scheu’s ‘Plastic Belly’. Photo: Ivan Trigo Miras

The very softly spoken Borys was difficult to hear as she explained (according to program notes) that her focus is on Old Slavic and Western aspects of cosmology, inviting us to contemplate the connection between the land and the cosmos. No sound accompanies her movement which at times crawls and rolls, encircling the audience seated in the centre. Unfortunately, the arrangement of the space, creating poor sight lines, prevented a true appreciation of the piece.

Plastic Belly, created by choreographer Courtney Scheu in collaboration with visual artist Itamar Freed, and performed by Scheu with Chloe Lanham, explores a post-apocalyptic existence. Scenarios of power and control, freedom and dependence are clearly expressed as the two dancers in brown overalls negotiate their relationship via the medium of a large blue tarpaulin. This covers both completely, creating evocative, sometimes amoebic-like shapes, revealing one, then the other dancer, as they clamber in and out of its folds. The movement is simply fashioned, and the soundscape otherworldly. Well-constructed (Liesel Zink was dramaturge), Plastic Belly was very engaging, and its site, on the banks of the Brisbane River, also a winner.

Denise Richardson

Pictured top is “Mine” by the Australian Dance Party. Photo: Jade Ellis

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