Theatre Review: Shine Lady, Leigh Hall

By Bernadette Rae

Ann Dewey, choreographer of dance work Shine Lady. Photo / Supplied
Ann Dewey, choreographer of dance work Shine Lady. Photo / Supplied

Choreographer Ann Dewey and her three gorgeous dancers began this work as an exploration of the movement of plate tectonics and microscopic life, and whether purely abstract movement was possible.

The result is a bejewelled celebration of the primordial feminine cosmic energy: of goddess power in all its manifestations, from Pavarti to the Madonna.

Indian philosophy would call this energy shakti, or the prakriti of purusha.

In embodying the pushing and sliding, twisting, shoving and gliding motion of the planet's exoskeleton and the staccato motion of organic life viewed through a microscope, Dewey discovers a unifying force that gives the work's vocabulary a riveting cohesion and meaning beyond but encompassing the religious iconography.

Several gleaming and satiny cloths in jewel colours suggest continents on the move in one moment, sacred mantles in another. Costumes are simple: white T-shirts and knickerbockers in contemporary style - that nevertheless give a subtle hint of the harem, and are frequently embellished by those swirling silks in turquoise, blue and red.

The set piece, by artist Mike Petre, is a dense cluster of shaped sticks, reminiscent of, and probably existing in a former life as, turned chair legs.

But grouped closely and arranged on cabinets of varying heights they magically montage from cityscape to minarets to forest.

The cabinets add magic to the jewel-like aura of the performance when they illuminate, towards the end of the work, manifesting a starscape, the symbol for eternity, a halo and letters from Sanskrit and Greek.

The music is a mad melange from beautiful Bach cello suites through European gypsy music to thrashy modern punk.

Elizabeth Kirk, Julie van Renen and Liana Yew are the transcendent dancers, faultlessly powerful and yielding, lyrical and angular, quirky, cute, quicksilver, compelling - and immeasurably serene.

There is a rather strange change of pace in the closing scene, though, with the descent from above of three plastic dolls, recognisable consorts of goddess Barbie, and variously spun and hung and finally liberated to take their place on Petre's artistic arrangement, alongside some small plastic cows.

A nod to the importance of husbandry in the dance of all creation?


What: Shine Lady.

Where and when: Leigh Hall (and at Tapac May 25 -29).

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