Marlo Benjamin, Kimball Wong and Jana Castillo in Tanja Liedtke’s construct. Australian Dance Theatre, 2017. Photo: © Chris Herzfeld/Camlight Productions

Construct. Australian Dance Theatre. ADAPT Season 2020

Tanja Liedtke’s Construct, a streamed performance from 2017, was an eye-opener. I had not, for various reasons, seen the work before and, while I had heard a lot about it, I really had no idea what to expect. Well, it was funny, it was sad, it was revealing, it was complex, it was about life (and at one stage about death).

Danced with great panache and skill by Marlo Benjamin, Jana Castillo, and Kimball Wong, it examined from so many points of view the notion of construction, as the name implies. The stage space was filled with various items used in building construction, a saw horse, items of timber, power tools, a ladder at one stage, and other such items. The construction of a house was intended as further items were added, and as the basic shape of a house took place. But on a different level the work was also about the ‘construction’ of relationships and often this was indicated by the touching (or not) of index fingers (à la Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling painting). Sometimes the human element was intense, at other times distant, but Liedkte managed to move from one situation to another with ease, often rapidly but, remarkably, without creating any confusion in one’s mind while watching.

Marlo Benjamin, Kimball Wong and Jana Castillo in Tanja Liedtke’s construct. Australian Dance Theatre, 2017. Photo: © Chris Herzfeld/Camlight Productions
Kimball Wong and Jana Castillo in Tanja Liedtke’s construct. Australian Dance Theatre, 2017. Photo: © Chris Herzfeld/Camlight Productions

Choreographically Construct was entirely different from anything I have seen before. Sometimes the movement seemed quite simple. There was walking, simple jumping, and lying on the floor. But most of the movement was complex and required extreme flexibility, even acrobatic skills from the dancers. But to me it never looked acrobatic or overly physical—just fluid, remarkable and unique.

The work opened with a very funny sequence in which Wong made a largely unsuccessful effort to balance Benjamin and Castillo in an upright position. The two women were as immobile as the strips of wood that became such an inherent feature of the rest of the work. As Construct progressed those strips of wood became windows, roofs, doorways, even a toilet seat at one stage. But looking back, the immobile ladies perhaps represented certain aspects of human relationships, the inability to control another person perhaps?

Construct is an astonishing work created by a choreographer who had a hugely inventive mind. I wish I had seen more of her work.

Michelle Potter, 9 August 2020

Featured image: Marlo Benjamin, Kimball Wong and Jana Castillo in Tanja Liedtke’s construct. Australian Dance Theatre, 2017. Photo: © Chris Herzfeld/Camlight Productions

Beau Dean Riley Smith (centre) as Bennelong, Bangarra Dance Theatre 2017. Photo: Vishal Pandey

Australian Dance Awards 2018. The short list

The names of short listed nominees for the 2018 Australian Dance Awards have just been released. As usual the list shows the amazing variety of dance and dance practitioners we have in Australia, so it was not easy to decide which image to use as the featured one on this post. In the end I opted for an image by Vishal Pandey, a photographer who is relatively new on the Australian dance scene and who has been active in Canberra recently. It is of Beau Dean Riley Smith who is nominated for his role as Woollarawarre Bennelong in Bangarra’s work, Bennelong. Joining Smith on the short list for the award of Outstanding Performance by a Male Dancer are Richard Causer, Nelson Earl and Kimball Wong. All gave spectacular performances in particular works in 2017 and any one of them could take out the award.

Here is a link to the media release, which gives the full short list. The recipient of the award for ‘Lifetime Achievement’ will be made public shortly before the awards ceremony. The ceremony for 2018 will be held in Brisbane at the Powerhouse on 8 September 2018. Tickets for the ceremony are available now. Follow this link. The booking link also contains all kinds of useful information about the event and the venue

Michelle Potter, 9 July 2018

Beau Dean Riley Smith (centre) as Bennelong, Bangarra Dance Theatre 2017. Photo: Vishal Pandey

Featured image: Beau Dean Riley Smith (centre) as Bennelong, Bangarra Dance Theatre 2017. Photo: Vishal Pandey. With Smith are (left) Tara Robertson and (right) Kaine Sultan-Babij