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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.

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