Brave and brilliant
By Joana Simmons
Sometimes as we get older, we challenge ourselves less. We don’t always push ourselves to fail and fall. In Tiny Slopes for Dance Massive, director/choreographer Nat Cursio has pushed the cast of dancers to learn to skateboard, and learn about risk, failure, humility and little wins along the way. Set along to an eclectic soundtrack, this impressive and artistic work is a joy from beginning to end. One of Melbourne’s wonderfully-kept historical venues, The Meat Market, tucked just north of the CBD is a perfect host to this production that has a range of well-thought-out theatrical elements that really spin my wheels.
We enter the Meat Market and sit looking at an almost-tennis-court-sized tarquet set with four skateboards. One of the dancers balances, jumps and manouvers cautiously around the board as the other three speak about things that they use to do when they were little, like jump off the roof of the shed and ride a tricycle down the windshield of Dad’s car. The snippets of memories are honest, dry and witty about the things they are scared of, what they don’t know about and what they can do. I loved how cleverly these anecdotes were woven through: though there’s no real storyline, they keep the work interesting, truthful and accessible.
Meanwhile, the depth of the stage is as impressive as how the dancers cover it. They use the skateboards as mechanisms for movement, with smooth natural floorwork and rolls; effortlessly skilled and meticulously choreographed. The skateboards have microphones to capture their clunks and the sound of the wheels spinning, and this is enhanced and reverberated to make a fully stirring experience. Young teenage girls who can skateboard with much dexterity skim the floor and play the roles of mentors, or past selves, to the four main dancers. The full house applauded as they tackled the ramps and mini half-pipe.
There’s many highlights and wonderful things to learn and take away from this show. Cursio made it from her ongoing interest in vulnerability and resilience, two virtues that are widely explored in this work. It is exciting and empowering to see a group of strong girls form a gang and put a beautiful story onstage. It’s got the athleticism and production of Cirque Du Solei with the artistic quality of a documentary seasoned with a little comedy. I want to commend the cast (Alice Dixon, Melissa Jones, Caroline Meaden, Francesca Meale, Rae Franco, Amelie Mansfield, Pyper Prosen, Pixel Willison-Allen) for their completely honest and genuine performance. It was really refreshing to see movement and performance that wasn’t flashy or self-indulgent: quite simply, it was artistic and accessible.
Travis Hogan’s comprehensive lighting combined with sound by Byron Scullin and ‘everyday awesome’ costumes by Sarah Hall gives this show a sweet aestheic and aural edge. Tamara Salwick as the text/ voice consultant has tastefully put together elements of the show that bring Cursio’s direction and choreography to life.
With no “ta da” ending, it is the choreographic unison and connection between the performers made this a satisfying show. It makes me feel like I too can take up something I’m afraid of, like skateboarding. It’s a privilege to enjoy performances of this nature. If you have never seen contemporary dance and are worried it’s wishy washy writhing in nude leotards, this is a spectacle that defies all of that and exceeds expectations. It’s an absolute delight.
Tiny Slopes played as part of Dance Massive in March 2017.
Image by Gregory Lorenzutti