Australian Dance Party with QL2 dancers ‘weave, hustle and halt’ at the NPG

Australian Dance Party with dancers of QL2 ‘weave, hustle and halt’ at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Alison Plevey: “As I take up reins this week at QL2 Dance as Acting Artistic Director, I bounce into the office and out onto the street to perform a quirky new work I have created working closely with the National Portrait Gallery. The piece is a reflection of the extraordinary exhibition Dempsey’s People: A folio of British Street Portraits currently showing until 22 October 2017.

The work ‘weave, hustle and halt’ echoes the rhythms, characters and activity of the streetscape, and in particular references the changing face of the street and literally the people we encounter in these ever-transient spaces. For me—a history lover and site dance addict—drawing from this historically significant exhibition and creating the work in situ in the street-like pathway outside the gallery has been a process I have savoured.

In our short creative development, I invited each of the nine dancers to create a physical response to one of the 50 portraits in the exhibition. Dempsey’s incredibly detailed, almost scientific, specimen-like interpretation of these 19th Century British characters, drew us to imagine their story, their personality, with their name or job description providing some insight (eg. bun man or town lunatic). From here we played with how these people might move and interact. I am not so interested in a direct reflection, but capturing the essence of the life and atmosphere of a street both then—200 years ago—and today. What has changed?

In creating the choreography, I collaborated closely with two wonderfully versatile musicians from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, Alex Voorhoeve and Tim Wickham (also participants in our CO.LAB program). Alex, Tim and I workshopped, scored and tested ideas for sound, incorporating sound effect, soundscape and instrumental or electronic music composition. It is a rich tapestry of sound which aptly adds to the group, solo and duo moments of in the dance and invites you into their persona, and transports you to perhaps another time and place.

QL2 dancer Natusko says “Creating this piece was such a speedy yet exciting process. Learning phrases and creating individual movement and putting it together in a short time frame and transposing it into a totally new location was challenging. Working with live musicians was amazing because it gave the piece more dimensions, and the real feeling of the ordinary people living in the streets of 1820s to 1840s Britain”

And from Caspar “… one of the most focused processes I have ever been part of. It was very well planned which made the process very efficient whilst still being open for collaboration and creative investigation. Sharing the process with a diverse group of individuals was a great experience as it meant we had all kinds of input and interesting interactions.”

Thank you to dance artists of QL2: Milly Vanzwol, Caspar Ilschner, Eve Buckmaster and Ursula Taylor; together with Olivia Fyfe, Jane Ingall and Philip Piggin for a joyous process in making and performing this piece. It has been one of my all-time faves.

Thank you to the National Portrait Gallery, QL2 Dance, NewActon Precinct and Canberra Symphony Orchestra for support in enabling this adventure.

You can read a review of the first performances by Michelle Potter here.  “…a short, totally captivating dance piece…”

Please join us this Saturday 9 September, 12pm and 1pm at the National Portrait Gallery for the final performances.

[Photos: Martin Ollman]