Stephanie Lake - Pile-Of-Bones

Stephanie Lake Company’s Pile of Bones premiere

Deft physical manoeuvres and a minute examination of the codes of movement are elegantly displayed in Stephanie Lake Company’s Pile Of Bones. A contemporary-era tour de force on ritualism and humanity, with a hypnotic electronic soundtrack, and elemental set and costume design, this work will have you pondering the codes of human life long after and is a captivating 60 minutes.

Lake, VCA and Chunky Move alumna, has trademark dance design that is investigative, playful, quirky and philosophically questing. Highly refined technically and conceptually, this work enthrals and delights!

Four dancers, two male, two female, first appear out of black darkness as an amorphous mass- all palms, digits, hands, and bony protrusions mimetically signing articulation across the face and upper body of charismatic lead, Samantha Hines. They move as one creature. In a primitivist language, the dancers ‘speak’ to us through their bodies alone. 

The work, being wordless, is gestural and mimetic, as if an ancient language we owned in prehistoric days, or a way of communicating we may be called upon to retrieve in future times- or today. Trancelike, we suspend conscious thought and enter the realm dance especially carries us into – the unconscious. In a waking dream, we are stupefied by the highly-detailed contortions of dancers Hines, Jack Ziesing, Harrison Ritchie-Jones and Marlo Benjamin. 

The dancers give everything. They decode, recode, break up, dissemble, fragment, unify, and assemble movement repeatedly. The choreography is ceaseless and we observe their sweat, panting, intake of breath, messy hair, and full physicality, as they fuse back and forth, with, and without, each other. There are lovely duets as well as group studies, and fragile solos.

We watch the group- ‘body-logue’: speak as one entity. Lake repeats depersonalised movement devoid of personality, breaking action and interaction into constituent parts. It’s akin to computer code in it’s bits and bytes. Parts merge, connect, distil, pixelate, fragment, disengage, add on, etc. in endless iterations, as with programming. In dance form,  these signs of life are presented here as beauty. She layers this constructional brokering onto the body and it is our delight to ponder such coding and ‘inscription’- does the program do over the dancers, or do bodily impulses corrupt the programming? And who writes the program?

About relationships, this work is really an exercise in embodiment and being. Where does the human part of functionality reside in a world which privileges the machine over man? It’s a beautiful ode to both the animus that lives inside our body-as-machine, and the poetry of relationships- ours to our body parts, and bodies to each other.

The work has 4-5 sections which merge seamlessly. A highlight is Marlo Benjamin’s sculptural dressing, where, as an emblematic warrior, she is colourfully adorned by the dancers with Post It Notes as a type of reptilian armour. It’s a stunning image you won’t want to miss. Lake gives us top class dance-thinking.


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 looks for quality works that push the envelope.

Pile Of Bones runs 15 – 19 August, 7:30pm Tuesday – Saturday, 2pm Saturday (60 mins) at Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall. Book tickets here. The venue is accessible.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Starling Communications.

Image credit: Jess Busby