‘Aftermath‘ was heady.
Described as a dystopian rollercoaster by its Australasian Dance Collective (ADC) creators, ‘Aftermath’ felt more like a pulsating bodily experience than an external ride. If you’ve never felt the building intensity of a warehouse rave, this dance-performance-DJ-gig at Brisbane Powerhouse is your chance.
The atmosphere was all-encompassing as the theatre-goers poured in: dim with lights flickering, sounds of crackling wires and a DJ booth of sorts positioned centre stage on a rotating platform — complete with keyboards, drums and electric guitars. This is where Brisbane’s own Danny Harley (aka The Kite String Tangle) would use European inspiration from “immersion” into his recent Berlin residency to speed and slow the collective heartbeat of the audience, complemented by sound operation from Dale Hughes.
From ambient to techno, from restrained to intense; the creators succeeded in positioning Harley and his “sonic landscapes” as central rather than secondary to the six dancers with whom he shared the stage.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the dancers were fully choreographed in advance or whether there was a live element of Harley adjusting to suit their movements. Co-creator / dancer Jack Lister explained the process was a fluid back-and-forth: some scenes originated via samples Harley created; others were based on videos of dance sequences the ADC sextet provided the producer.
The choreography, by co-creators Lister and ADC Artistic Director Amy Hollingsworth, allowed for all six dancers to be featured at various points throughout what was undoubtedly an exhausting hour-long performance, before rejoining the synced movements of the group.
Lonii Garnons-Williams was captivating as she opened the show with razor-sharp concentration, intricate upper body movements, and smooth floorwork that evoked the feeling of being twisted and pulled.
The partner work was unique: Chase Clegg Robinson and Jag Popham performed what appeared to be an expertly timed courting ritual, but without any eye contact – as if they moved as a pair without acknowledging the other was there.
A sequence from Lister and Jake McLarnon, in his farewell performance before retiring from ADC, seemed to alternate between tender embrace and aggressive rebuke, with exceptionally fluid yet controlled movement.
Josephine Weise was a standout with her intense physicality, straying from the group as the beat intensified; convulsing on the floor before being thrown into the air by her fellow ravers.
Highlights included the lifts and tricks against the back wall as Robinson (and others) were propelled and held against the brick, only to be enveloped by the crowd as the group moved across the stage in an excellent use of space.
The choreography was remarkable in its imaginative use of the human body and ability to seamlessly transition from group-sync to chaotic, with an impression of raving-as-one with an overwhelming feeling of separate, individual experiences.
Particularly effective in evoking the warehouse rave atmosphere was the lighting design by Ben Hughes, with lighting operation by James Horgan. Mostly dimmed, the lights also pulsed along with the beat and the two strobe sections were effective in capturing climactic moments.
Costume styling and design by Alana Sargent, with seamstress and wardrobe credited to Frances Pyper, was effective in its simplicity: solid-coloured shirts and pants for the majority, a jumpsuit on Garnons-Williams, and a shiny raincoat-like jacket on Harley made for the quintessential gig attire.
Established in 1984 as Expressions Dance Company, ADC has created over 175 works by 70 international and national choreographers, receiving three Helpmann Awards and three Australian Dance Awards, among others. ‘Aftermath’ is ADC’s first mainstage performance in over a year and was conceived as the COVID-19 pandemic was setting in.
As Hollingsworth says, it’s a “visual and auditory journey” that aims to focus on what memory means, opening with a whispered, “Do you remember yet?” later juxtaposed by “Have you forgotten yet?”
‘Aftermath’ was heady as in strong, exhilarating and intoxicating – a highly successful collaboration between a talented contemporary dance troupe and a formidable home-grown composer.
‘Aftermath’ performs until 14 February at Brisbane Powerhouse. For more information, visit the Australasian Dance Collective website.
Photos by David Kelly.