Review: Colossus

A celebration of mass and movement

By Lois Maskiell

The Melbourne Fringe’s vibrant and often overwhelming program is renowned for engaging audiences with undiscovered and emerging artists and now, with the introduction of the Take Over! program, a leading independant artist is added to the mix. Award-winning contemporary dance choreographer, Stephanie Lake, is this year’s recipient with Colossus. Presented in partnership with Arts Centre Melbourne, this large-scale work sees Lake’s unique dance-language harness young talent in a captivating and electric production.

Fifty bodies lie motionless in a circle on the floor. Ambient noises begin to awaken their limbs, their fingers curl slowly, and soon they begin to pulsate. Striking visual formations like this feature frequently and with so many bodies on stage, Lake has an astute ability to sculpt clear sequences that appear almost spontaneously out of carefully orchestrated chaos.

Equally absorbing are the dancers from the Victorian College of the Arts and TriPP Transit Dance who are diverse in age and talent. Standout duets showcase Lake’s choreographic style as we see unlikely duos push, pull, attract and resist one another. It is a beautiful illustration of human relationships at their most abstract and fundamental level.

Running side-by-side Lake’s choreography are composer, Robin Fox’s voltaic soundscapes. At times dancers are in complete unison with Fox’s sound effects, while at others they resist moving with the music. Their bodies appear to be instruments in their own right, contributing to a celebration of mass and movement.

In one instance the dancers assemble as if in a school photograph and a voice over, presumably Lake’s, delivers sharp instructions. “Float left hand up…Stop,” she commands. This winds up in laughter as the audience witnesses the dancers diligently follow directions. I can’t help but think that Lake is casting an ironic glance at the act of choreographing and how so much of the creation process involves giving or following instructions.

Bosco Shaw’s lighting design and Harriet Oxley’s costumes are both stark and simple. Adorned in a black and comfortable attire, the dancers are left to freely move about the stage. Shaw’s lighting transitions from cold white to warmer tones and compliment switches in Lake’s repertoire. The final moments erupt in a rhythmical and percussive number where performers demonstrate their talent and sheer passion for dance. Watching these young artists give Lake’s compositions their unbridled and unrestrained energy is truly part of the wonder.

Colossus is a feverish display of action-reaction forces between bodies set to an electric musical score. After experiencing these poignant formations emerge out of a swarm of dancers, I was left feeling as if Colossus was like observing life play out in a crowded city.

 

Colossus is being performed at Arts Centre Melbourne until 30 September.  Tickets can be purchased online and by calling the box office on 1300 182 183.

Photograph: Mark Gambino

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