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Fiercely Mystique: Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance

Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance brings to the stage a sniff of seduction, a dash of seriousness and gigantic amounts of glamour. Jason Coleman and his board of directors and tutors have clearly worked tirelessly to deliver a fast-paced and jam-packed spectacle for the graduates of MOD 2017.

The venue is no suave hall such as the Palais Theatre like in previous years, rather this factory warehouse sits in an awkward spot on the corner of an intersection in Melbourne’s west. Inside opens up to look like a miniature Rod Laver Arena, with a raised stage and couched seating against a concrete foundation. The array of dazzling lights is breathtaking and the backdrop of a three-level ‘house’ where dancers can stand on the platforms above each other behind curtains is completely a unique perspective of floor space use. Despite the music reaching chronic amplitude levels, the remixed versions of songs and the included hard-hitting beats behind tracks make each performance entirely original and flavoursome.

MOD full-time students perform a Werewolves routine. Photography: Belinda Strodder.

With Adrian Ricks as the director of dance at Ministry, it is clear the level of classical technique has risen dramatically. There are lots more contemporary routines—refreshing to see—with the safe approach to effective fly rolls, knee drops, and fouettes. A standout performance is the Werewolves item, which entails a magnitude of dancers performing intricate contemporary movements to a fast-paced rhythm while envisioning a character of a wolf. Something different in terms of your contemporary pieces, but the essence of the dance is not dissimilar to that of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’.

The full-timers reenact scenes from rock stars and pop icons such as Justin BieberBruno Mars and Beyonce, all to capture our attention and to prove MOD is fierce (Sasha Fierce that is). Along the same music themes, the 27 club (aka those musicians who tragically took their own lives at the mere age of 27) including Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse is brought to life with a powerful remix of both those artists’ songs put together.

It is riveting to see and hear the tappers shine in the second act, somewhat rejecting the myth that tap is a dying dance form. Even though the tappers execute the intermediate steps to a strong level, the accuracy of beats could be cleaner.  

Music theatre and vocals are strong at MOD. Photography: Belinda Strodder.

The musicality of the show is rather quirky and engaging. A duet number ‘Fine – Ordinary Days’ involving a heterosexual couple going through adversities of lateness trying to attend her cousin’s party on Broadway Street is the clear winner here. The acting is subtle and humorous, while the singing is perfected to a professional musical theatre tone of voice. The other singing acts are also done superbly, and it is very transparent that the vocal coach Deb Mitchelmore is training the performers correctly.

Mystique is a highly energetic show and demonstrates the talent of the full-timers quite nicely. As a side thought, we must always keep at the front of our minds that these dancers are in training; an education program that allows them to make mistakes and grow. There are slight concerns that many full-time schools are becoming too focused on the look of the end-product rather than focusing on individual development. It is awe-inspiring to see a professional looking show, but it is more dynamic seeing all the dancers being able to fully showcase their technical and emotional talents. In saying that, these dancers, in particular, look ready to take on future professional performances with ease, sure to uphold a strong reputation to Jason Coleman’s Ministry of Dance.

Content: Indefinite Dance Company

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Gandhi

Indefinite Dance Company’s ‘Content’ successfully blends dance with the exploration of individual happiness and how it can be brought about in times of strife.

This invitation-only presentation is a half-hour lyrical piece featuring all dancers from Indefinite Dance Company. The stage is small but still large enough to fit fourteen moving bodies. It is not a dazzling spectacular, but a pure and raw demonstration of the power dance can have on the mind. Spectators find themselves smiling at the joy of watching the dancers search for their own sense of contentment. The dancers question the authority of happiness; who is in charge of a person’s happiness and how can everyone find it and hold onto the feeling?

Performers dance to their own recordings on the soundtrack about their perception of happiness. Each dancer has something to contribute to the conversation, whether it is finding happiness in themselves before reaching out to others, abandoning the likes of social media to find a sense of contentment, or discovering a place of positivity during the adverse times. Some dancers go into detail about their personal anecdotes, such as confronting a mental illness by association or dealing with society’s warped values of what females should look like. The representation is by no means sombre; stories on the soundtrack are assisted with warm and heartfelt messages of joy relating to their own happiness. The upbeat and positive songs by One Republic, Dean Lewis, Florence and the Machine and much more, all contribute to the melody of happiness.

All dancers are of equal dancing ability, which provides everyone a chance in the spotlight. It is refreshing to see the lyrical style being manipulated to reflect the words of each personal story. There is no particular motif within the choreography, but there is a presence of fluid, circular motions and intricate transition of patterns to symbolise the spreading of happiness.

Casey Chellew, company director enjoying dancing in her piece Content. Photo: Mish Mackay Photography.

Artistic director and choreographer Casey Chellew believes her piece is easily identifiable among many people because everyone experiences happiness and a lack of it at times.

“Through the very popular performing art of dance, my piece is easily relatable but also very eye-opening. ‘Content’ confirms that everyone is entitled to happiness—that we shouldn’t take it for granted and that it is definitely worth fighting for,” she stated.

If you are a school teacher, principal, dance studio owner or a facilitator of an organisation dealing with young people and children, then Indefinite Dance Company can certainly help bring a little positivity to your environment. It is short enough and quick-paced to keep focused throughout, but also long enough to have the messaged communicated effectively. Casey also offers dance workshops and happiness workshops to help attain a positive mindset as well as gaining coordination.

Audience members are left thinking about their own happiness once the dancers exit the stage. That is what dance is designed to do— challenge the mind, spark a thought process, and inspire them on a path to a positive change. Indefinite Dance Company has succeeded on this level as well as on an emotional level, providing a semi-psychological experience through movement.