Breaking the ordinary: Spark Youth Dance Company’s ‘Circuit Breaker’
The audience flows like electricity between each static performance location. Anticipation and mystery grow on this chilly Melbourne evening as they travel, guided by subtle fairy lights and small hand-held torches.
Circuit Breaker, Spark Youth Dance Co’s season opening is an ‘exploration of new; of different; of finding new ways through challenges to soar and evolve.’ Aged between 14-23, the choreographers use contemporary dance to ‘explore themes of and above their years, challenging audiences to listen and hear their stories.’
Entering a stylish café at the McClelland Sculpture Park and Gallery, the audience is greeted by light refreshments and warm respite. Beautifully graceful, a solo dancer moves in the corner of the room, welcoming the patrons to this unique production. Marie Allaman then graciously explains the artistic collaboration between the performers of Spark and the beauty of ‘art situated within a bush setting’ at the MClelland Sculpture Park.
Choreographers: Meaghan Wilksch, Olivia Derri and Zoe Dellaportas
A lone dancer stands, dwarfed by a red-and-blue lit sculpture of a ram’s skull. Two other dancers appear and the three move in and out of unison, in a piece reminiscent of school yard experiences and the transient, fickle of teenage relationships. As the murder plot unfolds, the musical score adds to the overall physical experience leading the audience to enjoy a striking, well-executed and emotive performance.
Choreographer: Hannah Fletcher
Two dancers move, as if in a forest, through 28 upright ‘soldiers’ set in a triangle. Ground level lighting of the sculpture creates stretching shadows which add an ephemeral air to the choreography. Simple black and white costuming supports the duet of light and dark while, musically, the piece is full of contrasting minor and major notes via violin and cello. As the waif-like dancers weave fluidly through the rigidity of the sculpture, losing and seeking each other, the audience shares the juxtaposition of their loss and the joy of reconnection.
Choreographer: Tess Pye
Tess Pye’s choreography is well beyond her 15 years. Her use of positive and negative space between the rusted and weather beaten iron sculptures and dancers is sublime. The inclusion of young dancer, Natalie Wilksch, adds heightened beauty and emotion through her expression of innocence, mortality and the subsequent loss of both. The idea of ‘Chaos in the storm. Will we flourish or fold?’ is beautifully portrayed by Tess and her dancers through graceful steps interspersed with jagged movements to signify rising tension and disorientation in this almost otherworldly performance.
Choreographers: Jessica Gration and Sadie Russo
Two dancers, dressed in opposing red and black costumes, stand at the centre of a fairy-lit stone labyrinth. Motifs of individualism and unity are explored as the dancers run, jump and leap throughout the sculpture, moving away from each other, then drawing back together. Restricted within the confines of the performance space, their movements are dynamic and expressive as the emotive choreography explores the changing relationships that exist with each other and themselves.
Choreography: Zoe Dellaportas
Eager for more, the audience crests a small hill to find seven dancers, in simple white and grey, draped over the ‘Bubbles’ sculpture. They pose—unmoving for long minutes, stoically still in the cold night air. Music swells, a backdrop of synths played over the sounds of rain, as dance begins.
Zoe Dellaportas’ emotive choreography blends seamlessly with the musical score as she explores the ‘capacity for small actions to create a big effect’. Combining solos, duos and interaction between the entire troupe, the sculpture becomes part of the piece as the dancers move around it. At times, another dancer is projected onto the surface of the sculpture, creating an experience that fully encompasses the audience as the music moves into a soft discordant piano striking minors and 7ths, then onto an emotive spacious piano piece while the lighting switches to muted blues and purples.
Incrementum ends with all the dancers blending into the sculpture, at one with nature. Clouds of steam left by the dancers breathing in the cold air adds to the mystifying unity of this wonderful performance.
Embodiment of the Mortal Soul
Choreographer: Jessica Gration
Created in two parts, Jessica Gration’s clever choreography tells the story of young people ‘exploring the expectations and pressures of growing up.’ In simple costumes, reminiscent of night gowns, six dancers are ‘woken’ individually by the youngest performer as the music references the passing of time.
At times, the sculpture is used to contain the dancers, to separate them from reality. Almost as if trapped, their movements express energy and urgency as they seek to grow, challenge, and protect each other. Slightly discordant, the music contains undertones of mechanical devices working slightly out of time as the dancers flow through the sculpture and over the damp grass.
The second part of this performance uses the motif of sunflowers. Beautifully paced, this piece is uplifting, filled with joy and delicate movement. Lit by soft blues, moments of reflection and dawning expression are portrayed by the dancers and innocent, natural choreography.
Let’s Just Mark It
Choreographer: Alex Dellaportas
Dancers ‘rehearse’ as the audience arrives. Music slowly swells from a lone piano, sticking a slight melody, and it becomes apparent that the dancers are continually repeating the same movements, as if caught in a moment. Eventually the dancers from the other stage arrive, and the youngest takes the lead as teacher to counts them in for their eighth and last routine.
Performed in front of a dynamic sculpture, dancers fill the open, grassy space with ease and confidence. Anticipation and excitement permeate the air as the choreography expresses both the togetherness and individuality of dance. Exploring the theme of ‘When does the real thing begin?’, Alex Dellaportas’ joyful exploration of life and art is the perfect finale for this fabulous production.
From arrival the audience is fully immersed in this collaborative performance. Set in a beautiful environment, the choreographers and young dancers embrace the challenges of performing outdoors on a cold night and uneven natural stages. The audiences’ journey through both art forms of sculpture and dance adds to the sense of transience that each performance brings. Innovative and exciting, Spark Youth Dance Co’s 2021 season is off to a fantastic start!