AUSTRALIAN DANCE THEATRE
May 9, 2019
The sound of rushing water and a gigantic, suspended ring hit us right off the bat when the curtain went up on Australian Dance Theatre's evening-long work titled The Beginning of Nature, conceived and directed by ADT’s artistic director Garry Stewart. Inspired by the rhythms of nature, this work conveys both its unpredictability and violence, with a group of dancers with phenomenal strength and agility. This was “physical dance theater,” at its best and most extreme.
ADT’s dancers are a formidable group with big, strong, muscular bodies we are not used to seeing on concert dance stages. They wore canvas-like short, loose dresses by Davis Browne that allowed their flexible, acrobatic, nimble and stunning floor work to seamlessly blend with undulating arms, predatory backbends, squats, bridges and brief spins on heads that seem to come out of nowhere. The dancers embodied animalistic, primal movements – at one point, two dancers hunched over a third dancer lying on the ground and picked up his limbs with their teeth – at other times, they were invisible carriers of nature, literally moving large green branch-like sticks around the stage. Both the men and women used their long, wild hair as part of the choreography, flinging it around as they moved, whether with aggression or tenderness.
The music by Brendan Woithe created an atmosphere that evoked “day and night, the seasons, the tides,” and included recorded strings by the Zephyr Quartet. A voice speaking in Kaurna, a 60,000 year-old indigenous language of the Adelaide plains, recently reconstructed with the help of journals by two German missionaries, completed the score. The gorgeous lighting by Daniel Voss, with its down pools and gradually shifting colors, together with the large ring that hovers assymetrically over the stage, ironically gave a futuristic look to the whole endeavor.
A long, wrenching solo by a very masculine, sweaty dancer with long black hair ended with him lying on the floor, and the relief was palpable when a young woman poured water into his mouth from a conch shell. At that point – not knowing this was supposed to be “the beginning” – I thought we were witnessing the inexorable destruction of global warming: It seems the end might be very much like the beginning.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson