Dance Massive highlights
Any dance fan worth their salt will have had Stephanie Lake on their radar for a while, but 2018 can be seen as a watershed year for this artist on the rise. Colossus, a jaw-dropping work featuring a whopping 50 performers, was one of the year’s most accomplished productions, so expectations are sky-high for the world premiere of Skeleton Tree. A collaboration with Malthouse Theatre artistic director and dramaturg Matthew Lutton, the piece is a modern twist on the momento mori, exploring the complexities of grief, how we articulate unspeakable emotions, and the ways the living attempt to understand and connect with the dead.
One of the most exciting Australian dance artists to emerge in recent years, James Batchelor has forged an impressive resume as both a performer and choreographer. In both capacities, his practice is highly collaborative, exploring not just the ways dance intersects with other artforms but how the body intersects with the abstract. Science has been a particularly powerful muse in Batchelor’s recent creations. This latest piece – the third in a series of science-focused productions – is a prime example, examining the unfathomable metrics of the universe and the ways humanity interacts and understands the vastness of the cosmological.
One of the best things a festival can do is make you look at a city, and the spaces within it, in a slightly different light. That’s exactly what happens in Australian dancer Joel Bray’s Biladurang, in which he invites a group of around 16 people into his suite for a glass of bubbles and some rather intimate confessions. The show is part monologue, part chat and participatory performance, and part contemporary dance work.
The word that best describes the work of Atlanta Eke is “unique.” Her previous productions have seen her push the boundaries of modern dance in utterly unexpected directions, often introducing familiar technologies and media into obscure, defiant contexts. This Eke trademark is on full display in this world premiere, as she and three other performers de-construct the courtly dances of Renaissance France to reimagine the Tennis Court Oath, a pivotal event of the French Revolution, all while dodging 400 tennis balls being launched at them.
As one of the nation’s most respected and revered contemporary dance makers, any new work by Lucy Guerin is cause for celebration. This latest piece is an exploration of the flux and tension between community and individuality. It features two distinct methods of movement, one rigorously choreographed, the other entirely improvised. Punctuated by sudden eruptions of spontaneous dance, these disruptions introduce a thrilling element of the unpredictable to the piece, meaning no two performances are alike. There is also a political subtext in play, questioning existing power structures and how asserting agency as an individual can challenge the status quo.
Narelle Benjamin and Paul White’s Cella is an evolution of sorts. The 65-minute dance work choreographed and performed by the duo begins with the two dancers rolling across the floor in slowly encircling patterns – their bodies arch as they turn over, creating a rhythmic movement that acts as a counterpoint to Huey Benjamin’s rumbling soundtrack. But as in nature, there are patterns that develop, falling into and out of synchronicity and symmetry as Benjamin and White circle one another.
Dance powerhouse Force Majeure is bringing one of its recent works to Melbourne's Dance Massive festival, transforming Arts House's Northcote Town Hall into an intimate arena. It features a diverse group of dancers competing against each other for an audience's affections in a Hunger Games-esque battle royale, which eventually transforms into something more intriguing.
Anouk van Dijk has been artistic director of Melbourne's most provocative contemporary dance company, Chunky Move, since 2012, and has led the company through some extraordinarily theatrical and challenging dance works. In 2018, she premiered a full-length dance piece that explores the uniting facets of humanity; or rather, the common ground upon which we all stand. The work is having a return season in 2019 at Malthouse for the biennial Dance Massive festival.