‘Arc’ was enthralling.
It was a beautiful (if not slightly overcast) afternoon to be outdoors in South Bank and experience Australasian Dance Collective’s world premiere work ‘Arc’, presented as part of Brisbane Festival 2020. The River Quay amphitheatre is a perfect location to bask in the sun that sets over the tops of Brisbane’s buildings. It also sets the scene for the work’s exploration of freedom after being trapped. Responding to unity and reconnection following a time of isolation and fear, ‘Arc’ shows the strength of the human spirit between individuals, but most importantly, the kinship of society as a whole.
‘Arc’ was specially created for the Brisbane Festival by the collective’s Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth, who gave a joyful yet emotional speech explaining the roots of the piece and the journey they faced during this year’s challenging times. The work featured Australasian Dance Collective’s 38 strong youth ensemble, using movement to explore ideas of uncertainty and paranoia, loneliness and separation from other people, herd behaviour, and working together to bring about positive change.
Considering the production was housed outdoors, the sound levels were perfectly balanced to combat the environment and support the physicality of the performers. Featuring an original score by Brisbane born composer Wil Hughes, tracks combined techno grooves and smooth, ethereal tones to create an auditory experience that was emotionally engaging and complementary to the visual performance The lack of distinct beats or rhythms throughout sections would have been challenging for dancers to learn, however, the strong ensemble rose to the task and created a movement that was synchronised and effective. Ultimately the music evoked a tense, brooding mood, which told audiences we have to work through tough times in order to come out the other side and perhaps total reconnection with normal life is not always achieved after it has been turned upside down.
Alana Sargent’s costume design effectively conveyed the message that society is unified and must act as a group. This was achieved by having all dancers wear plain black clothes, which also allowed attention to be drawn to the choreography. Additionally, the backdrop of the Brisbane river with the hustle and bustle of the city in the distance was a strong choice and further solidified the message of freedom and release following a time of isolation.
Amy Hollingsworth’s direction was well executed to reflect the current societal climate however was not a vision of hope for a better future. The work presented some harsh truths without a clear silver lining: despite people reconnecting with society, are there consequences and long-lasting effects? How long will it take people to recover, not just from a global emergency, but from our own personal loneliness and fears? Hollingsworth’s choreography with Assistant Choreographer Jake McLarnon and in collaboration with the collective’s artists accentuated these themes. The choreography included a mesmerising blend of contemporary and lyrical dance, moving from flouncy, free-flowing dance to sharp, robotic and almost mechanical movement. The talented ensemble made spirals, figure eights and block formations on the stage. Focus was effectively maintained throughout the show, swapping between relationships between individuals and the group as a whole all the while exploring a diverse range of movement within the piece’s storytelling. A standout moment towards the beginning of the piece was the tender dynamic between two dancers who appeared to melt over each other with dazzling effect. The ending had the entire cast repeating different movements in a frenzy before collapsing on the ground in unison as if they’d been trying to make a difference in their world but were unable to. The choreography was fascinating and unpredictable, which made for a thrilling viewing experience.
‘Arc’ shows us that even in troubled times the human spirit will fight for better conditions and that there are some roads we do not want to go down again. The Australasian Dance Collective’s new work explores the concept that people are flawed and do not always achieve what they want, however, even in the face of adversity, they will persist. With eye-catching choreography and skilled dancers, the work was a fantastic representation of talent and creativity, showing no signs of unpreparedness despite current circumstances and limitations.
‘Arc’ performed until Saturday, 19 September at River Quay, South Bank. For more information about Australiasian Dance Collective’s upcoming productions visit their website.