Is modern dance made for laughs? Can you laugh out loud during a dance show on the choreographer’s invitation? To this, and other questions, Stephanie Lake and third year dance students at the University of Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts, School of Dance, invited us in their show ‘Crush’. The work considered questions of conformity in the human experience, replication as well as individuation and chaos.
Electrifying physical dexterity and expression were the tools through which 22 soon-to-be dance graduates stormed the floor. They worked together cohesively as an ensemble. Showcasing athleticism, acrobatic partnering, deft gestural detail, and syncopation, the group put on display all the expressive language that make up modern dance.
Lake presented an inventive work with playfulness and inquiry at its core. She was not afraid to mock the seriousness of dance as a medium, as well as loosening dance codes so dancers can socialise with each other in performance, and creation.
‘Crush’ was held inside a cavernous studio pace, with various positioning of the audience. The full house keenly enjoyed the kinaesthetic delight of watching people leap, jump, catch, gallop, crawl, and throw themselves about the space singly, in pairs, small groupings, and as a massed group for 90 minutes. With grey, Brutalist costuming, and endless chains of repeated massed choreography, we saw the militaristic question of group behaviour starkly drawn.
The surprise of the second act’s cloud-like, foam-covered set, provided much experimental play by the dancers, and gave us cheeky laughs. Covering the entire expanse, the dancers crawled out from the stage edges to move the ‘cloudscape’. Some of the funniest moments were the cast playing on the sidelines- sporting the foam ‘clouds’ as masks, headdresses, attire or as bubble bath spillage or a pillow headrest.
With a loud amplified soundscape, and clever use of props as sound-making device (running fingers along the rippled cardboard ‘walls’ en masse, banging fists on the walls in the dark to produce a rain-like sound), this work assaulted our senses from all directions and was immersive.
I walked away proud of the resources of dance we have in our state – a national treasure at our fingertips, and for the future careers of these talented graduates exposed in this learning lab with one of the country’s top dancers and dance makers. A ‘Crush’-like collision of creativity indeed!
Sarah W. is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the bold, and non-traditional performance platforms. On-the-street or in the box seat, she is always looking for quality works that push the envelope!