Dance Review: Coalescing Towards, State Theatre Centre of WA, Perth Festival

A feast of hypnotic movement delivered in idiosyncratic style by a stellar cast of independent dancers.
Four male and female performers in casual clothing dancing spot lit under smoky lights on an open stage. Coalescing Towards. Perth Festival

Sometimes the best live performance happens at times and in places you least expect it. This idea will ring true for those in the know, and for the more unaware passers-by who encounter Coalescing Towards and the other free contemporary dance performances and “happenings” that Perth choreographic company STRUT Dance is presenting in the Courtyard of the State Theatre Centre of WA as part of this year’s Perth Festival.

Now in its second year, STRUT Dance and Perth Festival’s Perth Moves partnership season is one of Perth audiences’ best opportunities to soak up world-class contemporary dance in the heart of their arts precinct.

Perth Moves’ public performance program is also a master stroke in correcting the misguided notion that contemporary dance is one of the most difficult and niche art forms in the performance genre. It’s an open-access platform that invites one and all into the State Theatre’s Courtyard space to discover how surprising and uplifting new dance work can be.

Coalescing Towards – a 30-minute ensemble work by Italian choreographer Michele Rizzo – is a standout work in this year’s Perth Moves season.

Performed by 12 Australian and international dancers, the piece is powered by an astonishing rave-inspired score by WA composer Plyanci (Ozlem Kesik), and is a mesmerising journey that rises to an almost magical level when it fuses its seemingly disparate elements to invoke larger feelings of solidarity and joy.

As a choreographer, Rizzo is drawn to ideas of the transcendental and how ritualised dancing and communal gatherings can lead to higher powers, especially in spaces like raves and nightclubs, and in moments of collective worship.

In Coalescing Towards, these interests are revealed in the carefully structured cycles of repetitive sequences that the dancers deliver in a surprisingly calm, nonchalant style according to Plyanci’s rhythmic beats.

As they step and sway through Rizzo’s exquisitely precise formations, the performers’ low-key energies and indifferent expressions invoke a beautiful and intriguing mix of emotions.

While it’s obvious that no dancer can move off the beat, there is no hint of militancy in their style. Instead, they move with ease and are perfectly in sync while embodying their own versions of urban-casual-cool (all wear runners and sport a range of different t-shirts, tank tops, denim, sports pants and caps).

Particularly interesting are performers Campbell Gateley (WA), Chen Yi En (Taiwan) and Rhys Ryan (Vic), whose steady, hypnotic gazes and relaxed air makes their highly disciplined moves especially compelling. The pairing of Chen Yi En and Cameron Park in certain duets also commands attention.

Read: Performance review: The Pool, Perth Festival

Overall, this is a riveting dance work replete with enough subtle, quiet touches to ensure we feel uniquely close to its performers, as we watch them chart their own pathways towards greater strength as a larger whole.

Coalescing Towards is part of Perth Moves, State Theatre Centre of WA
Presented by STRUT Dance and Perth Festival in association with TURA

Choreographer: Michele Rizzo
Composer: Plyanci/Ozlem Kesik
Performers: Mitchell Christie, Ella Watson-Heath, Elsa Bignell, Olivia Adams, Rhys Ryan, Cameron Park, Francesca Fenton, Shaun Johnston, Rhiana Katz, Chen Yi En, Harrison Cook, Campbell Gateley

Tickets: Free

Remaining shows:
Sat 18 Feb, 6:15pm
Sun 19 Feb 7:15pm

ArtsHub's Arts Feature Writer Jo Pickup is based in Perth. An arts writer and manager, she has worked as a journalist and broadcaster for media such as the ABC, RTRFM and The West Australian newspaper, contributing media content and commentary on art, culture and design. She has also worked for arts organisations such as Fremantle Arts Centre, STRUT dance, and the Aboriginal Arts Centre Hub of WA, as well as being a sessional arts lecturer at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).