Tasdance with Gail Mabo and Sthan Kabar-Louët
Princess Theatre, Launceston

Dancing on the Edge
Tasdance has taken a real risk for both their dancers and choreographers.  The risk was inviting indigenous choreographers to communicate their unique dance languages.  Both Gail Mabo and Sthan Kabar-Louët had to accomplish the daunting task of instilling a new and foreign vocabulary into the bodies of the dancers—something that can take time.  This experiment resulted in a rich exchange of culture and a new vocabulary for Tasmanian dance to draw from.

Gail Mabo’s work Kelp immediately transports us to the brave and vibrant world.  Four dancers grow out of the ground and begin to exist in and explore the Island culture of the ocean through rhythmic gesture and animalistic crouching in pools of light.  The movement that draws on a Murray Island tradition of the Torres Strait conveys a rich and grounded vocabulary.  The hairpieces are like fantastic alien organisms that move on their own and defy gravity.  At times the dancers seem out of their comfort zone, but like us they are in new territory and loving it.
 
Kabar-Louët hails from New Caledonia and furthered his dance training in France.  In his work Le Burceau Des Espirits (The Cradle of the Spirits) the dancers, the movement and music shift between soft classical elements and rhythmic island traditions.  Joel Corpuz is magic in his lengthy solo, his magnetic energy and traditional movement a beautiful juxtaposition to the classical music. 

Sara Wright is an artist, curator and writer in Hobart. 

KELP and Le Burceau Des Esprits
Tasdance
Earl Arts Centre
3-4 April

It is a rare pleasure to not only enjoy the amount of dance performances and discussion in Launceston throughout Ten Days on the Island, but to witness the collaboration between two indigenous choreographers and Tasdance.

KELP, choreographed by Gail Mabo, is about her ancestry and connection with Murray Island in the Torres Strait.  Spending three weeks in Launceston, Mabo worked with the dancers, many of whom knew little about Torres Strait Islander culture.  She began by teaching them songs and sharing stories and from this a language of movement developed, merging Aboriginal, Torres Strait and contemporary dance.

The work draws on the relationship between the Torres Strait Islanders and the ocean.  The dancers appear as sea creatures with tentacled headpieces and their movements shift from languid to irregular in the telling of this story.  The music incorporates traditional music, song and more contemporary sounds.  Mabo’s work as a visual artist seems to influence the seascapes created by the interaction and movement of the dancers.  This work resonates with glimpses of storyline and dance that draws us in through its dramatic drumming and hypnotic allure.

Le Burceau Des Esprits (The Cradle of the Spirits) is the extremely theatrical work choreographed by New Caledonian born, Sthan Kabar-Louet.  It opens with the music of Bach and silhouettes of dances mimicking violin players which set the scene for a work that sweeps from traditional European influenced movements and music to traditional Pacific Islander.  This creates drama and tension for the audience, but also affects the cohesion and structure of the work as a whole.

The imagery is beautifully realized through the lighting, sound and use of simple props.  This is seen in the male solo and later, when the dancers bathe in tubs of water. 

Both these works are very accessible to all audiences and represent a successful collaboration for both choreographer and the dancers.

By Kylie E Eastley a freelance arts consultant based in Hobart, Tasmania.

 

 

 

The reviewers are Kylie Eastley and Sara Wright.