Choreographed by Natalie Weir, the latest work by Expressions Dance Company explores the liminal chasm between life and death.
Why would anyone compare choreographer Natalie Weir with Clint Eastwood? Except that Weir and actor-cum-filmmaker Eastwood have both created bold works delving into near-death experience. Weir’s starting point is what happens in the liminal chasm between life and death.
Iain Grandage’s brand new score of multiple influences; minimalism, fragments of scratchy eerie cries in the vein of Peter Sculpthorpe, trembling electronica with a prominent expanding and diminishing pulse, a nod to Mahler and a luminous reprise of Schubert’s ultimate death theme from ‘Death In The Maiden’, is a shiny vehicle for Weir’s excavation into physical decline, the recall of defining moments, grief and death through mostly abstract snapshots but with trailing narrative threads.
Richly imagined, this production deploys an expressive force of the highly skilled. The sterling touches are many, from the presence of Brendan Joyce (violinist) and Camerata of St John’s players dealing in visceral vibrato on stage and communicating direct with the dancers through their weaponry of stringed instruments.
These players intersected easily with EDC’s lexicon of gravity defying, poignant
trademark moves and probed Weir’s jangled emotional terrain with intensity, evidently memorizing vast tracts of music to do so, which is a credit to them. Increasingly, musicians are pressed into the spotlight and their demeanour must reflect the drama. It doesn’t always snap into gear as sharply as this but these musicians admirably discharged the brief.
Bill Haycock’s design and David Walter’s lighting achieves stunning presence with textured, leaning panels artfully positioned to maximize illumination in dank blue, white and yellow light. The ferryman’s boat features physical performer Thomas Gundry Greenfield’s eloquent and repetitive rowing, a physical riff and his gestures are the lungs, the clinging life force of the dying.
The production is rich in precision-punched, astonishingly executed lifts, throws against a partner’s chest, the impact like a sharp intake of breath, dazzling jumps, rolls and elegantly partnered body work where Michelle Barnett is held by the brilliant Jack Ziesing, for instance, and disappears into a rapidly spun blur. Riannon Mclean is distinctive as the woman.
Daryl Brandwood convinces as the grief-struck acting out a dancerly rage. Elise May charts the flickering flurries between life and deathly repose with effortless grace. Generally, the dancing is strongest in abstraction and weakens in literal portrayal. But for an awkward winding up, this haunting show is exhilarating, filled with stark yet stunning imagery and aesthetically athletic dance delivered by a supra-tuned ensemble.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
When Time Stops
Expressions Dance Company
The Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre
6 - 14 September
Brisbane Festival 2013
7 – 28 September
First published on