BWW Review: AUSTRALIAN DANCE THEATRE: NORTH/SOUTH at Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed by Fiona Talbot-Leigh, Thursday 12th September 2019.
North/South brings together two internationally renowned choreographers from opposite sides of the world. Ina Christel Johannessen, from Norway, and Adelaide's own Garry Stewart, have embarked on a project that gives further artistic voice to the subject of climate change. This wonderful piece of dance/theatre is split into two parts, the first of which is North.
Conceived, directed and choreographed by Johannessen, this work sees an array of quite diverse people waiting at a dilapidated bus shelter in winter. In what seems to be a post-apocalyptic time, we see these characters first explore who they are in their own skin in that terrain, before coming together with others and then apart as they try and make sense of the world in which they now live.
Set in a sparse place, designed by Wendy Todd, with ever-falling snow and dressed in heavy winter gear, complete with coats and boots, the dancers bring to life the harshness and angst of what it must be like to live in such a foreboding and unforgiving world.
The performers creating this picture are so full of life and give great contrast to the white backdrop against which they dance. Their bodies tell a story as they writhe and transform themselves from human to the extraordinary. Each of the nine dancers are mesmerising to watch. They contort their lithe bodies in such a way that, at times, seems subhuman but so beautiful to watch.
The music complemented the dancers perfectly. Composed by Koenraad Ecker, the distorted sounds reverberated around the theatre to fully draw all those into the scene that was unfolding on the stage before them. Damien Cooper's stark lighting, complete with a working street light, was perfect to offset the dancers.
After the interval came South, conceived, directed, and choreographed by Garry Stewart along with the ADT dancers. I was riveted from the start with this piece. Inspired by Sir Douglas Mawson's ill-fated journey to Antarctica in 1912/13, it opened with a clever slow strobe effect, compliments of Cooper, and on a bare stage. The audience watched, transfixed as the dancers brought Mawson's story to life. Large white cubes were cleverly used to depict ice as they were moved around the bare stage to create the illusion of Antarctica. Brendan Woithe provided the moving soundtrack to South and, clad in winter knits, the dancers once again used their bodies to tell a story. Stewart's choreography saw the cast more in unison and there is obvious trust within the group. These talented dancers are Jana Castillo, Zoe Dunwoodie, Harrison Elliott, Daniel Jaber, Christopher Mills, Matte Roffe, Rowan Rossi, Kimball Wong, Zoe Wozniak. Their bodies interpreted their inner turmoil as they fought to survive the elements.
I have always been proud of Australian Dance Theatre and North/South is an exquisite piece that would be at home on any stage in the world. Not only is it so beautiful to watch but it brings to light such a pressing issue in our time, that one can't be helped but to be moved and scared at the same time. North/South opened to a more than enthusiastic crowd and will play until the 14th of September.
Photography, Daniel Boud