BREAKING BARRIERS: New Audiences in the House

22/03/2010 at 11:39 am 3 comments

ELEVATE: presented by Stalker Theatre Company.

premiered at the Platform 3 Festival of Hip Hop
Carriageworks Foyer, March 2010

It’s dance, it’s physical theatre, it’s aerobatics, it’s sculpture, it’s physically demanding and full of risk. It’s breakdancing on stilts. Call it what you will, I call it fusion. Four players – twelve shiny metal cubes. In hip hop tradition, they battle to dominate control of the props in their style. There’s a limited supply, so none of them can ever quite get the exact arrangement they’d prefer. But it’s fun to watch them try. As a metaphor for capitalism, modern politics or the family unit; the simplicity is deceptive. The stakes are abstract enough but still high, and the performance unfolds with a casual grace that strikes a chord of hope in the face of an impossible challenge. The music, like the dance is uplifting, appropriate to the theme of rising above petty differences to work as one.

When the acrobatics begin, you’re drawn in far enough that you can’t help but jump when they jump; the thin line between success or failure of particular moves is dreadfully taut. One mistake and it’s game over. Thankfully the performers are all confident in each other and the equipment they use so that it all looks easy. It’s thoroughly worked out to the nth degree, but feels as though it’s an impromptu game. In this sense the hip hop lineage is clear, as there are unspoken rules in the breakdancing battles – born of a competitive mutual respect for the common space. In the context of the Platform 3 Festival; Elevate pushes the standard format for this to another level, fusing physical theatre and traditional dance conventions into something new.

I will talk about the rest of the festival in another post; in particular how breakdancing is its own theatrical form, but want to single this event out not only as a highlight of the day but also to put it into the context of new work, arts coverage and audiences front and centre. This was a premiere performance, and it was remarked by the MC before the event that the company will probably tour it to the European Festival circuit. It’s the kind of thing that if it was actually from Europe, would feature in the famous Spiegeltent at the Sydney Festival for tickets at the approximate price of hen’s teeth (and if it does next year, you read it here first). But this event was free, in the context of a grassroots arts, music & dance festival, and very well received by the three hundred or so audience members who are not traditional theatre goers.

As such this kind of thing is a vital step for theatre to build New Audiences, fusing conventions of the vibrant hip hop subculture into a different kind of performance, thus drawing a crowd to a new place where they might not have ventured before. A keystone of the Australia Council mission is just that, and anyone passionate about the performing arts should be excited to hear that a young, music oriented audience are getting into physical theatre in a big way. So everything is in place, a hot venue, enthusiastic crowd, a company experimenting in form, some homegrown work… just one thing missing: apparently the only media in the house were a couple of renegade bloggers! (myself & Amativus)

It’s clear that this stuff is happening, and that audiences are turning up, I just wonder where the ‘media professionals’ are at when it comes to giving New Work the recognition it deserves. It’s a shame because there is a market for this kind of work; the arts are about ready to explode in this city if only there were some decent coverage from the mainstream press. As some might say: “Where The Bloody Hell Are Ya?”

Elevate is directed by Nick Power, plays at Hoopla in Darling Harbour from April 2-5.

Entry filed under: Dance/ Physical Theatre, Festivals, Sydney THEATRE. Tags: , , , , , .

CRITIC WATCH: Are The STArs Out of Reach? I SLOW DANCED WITH A B-BOY (& I Liked It)

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jen  |  22/03/2010 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks for the link… and even moreso for providing a far more professional assessment and review of the piece! As I’m sure you’ve seen, my blog is more… journalesque.

    I am saddened that yours is the only “proper” review of such a fantastic work, but pleased that you’ve done it justice!

  • 2. anvildrops  |  22/03/2010 at 2:53 pm

    awww shucks – and you’re welcome!

    but don’t sell yourself short. it’s the ‘proper’ critics what letting the team down~!

    write what you feel. limiting words to what’s ‘proper’ is a sure way to miss the point of creative expression.

    as it turns out, even improper critics get a reader…

  • […] dance, theatre and hip hop in ways I’ve never seen. I’ve reviewed that separately here, as for me it carries it’s own significance in the world of performing arts. So this one goes […]


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